I entered the dining room of the lodge on the Brazilian side of the falls, Hotel Das Cataratas, where we were staying, and found a long table set with a breakfast buffet and my laughing sister sitting alone at a clean table for four. I sat down across from her. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” she said and kept laughing.

Only her silverware, rolled in napkin, lay in front of her. She’d been waiting for me and for Todd, who’d be along in a moment.

She laughed till tears rolled down her cheeks. I started laughing too. “What are we laughing at?” I asked.

“I’m just tired,” she gasped in her laughter. “When I’m tired, I laugh.”

We lived on opposite coasts of the U.S. but usually talked every week. I notice the absence of the phone calls, yet it seems to me that she’s still in her Southern California apartment. Only at Christmastime, which Todd and I usually spent with her, does the fact that she isn’t there seem real to me.

This Christmas I chanced to hear the song Rainy Day People, by Gordon Lightfoot, which always brings to mind hearing that song on a sunny, winter afternoon in the company of my sister and Todd at a restaurant with a light wood floor in a remodeled shopfront that might have been in Georgetown but was in fact in Colonia, Uruguay.

For the few minutes the song played, we were there again.

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