Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sister

I know a bit about blindsides. I've been dumped. Fired. Lost a school and a church. Watched my kids lose their's. I've been lied to, ambushed, had the rug pulled out from underneath. Just like you. So you would think I'd have learned a lesson, and begun living with the expectation that nothing stays in stasis. Still, my heart was utterly unprepared when my big sister, my only sister, told me this June that her husband was being transferred to Louisiana for work . Louisiana is very far from New York. This morning we drove to the airport and said goodbye.

No, I am not going to have a woe is me party because there are people in real crisis right now. My sister and precious nephew and brother in law are alive and healthy, they will just be too far to see when I want to. I am bereft by their leaving but I will not bore you with my whining. I only came to pay tribute to sibling relationship, so that we can all count our blessings should we be so lucky to have one.

My past is not my own. It is only in my sister's confirmation when I realize that childhood wasn't a dream. I can tell my husband about the fear, but Wendy lived it with me. I can tell about the fighting, but who knows better than my opponent? I could explain the loneliness of a fat child, but she sat beside me and ate. I could tell you of roundhouse kicks to the stomach, scratches, slaps, hair pulls, vicious names, and screaming at the top of our lungs - unleashing all of our little girl pain on one another, but only she hurt with me. I could tell you about the longing to escape isolation, rejection, depression, abuse.. but only she pined with me.

I can tell you about the bullying that had me frightened to wake up each day, but only Wendy marched onto the bus and threatened my accusers. I can tell you about waking at night, crossing the hallway and knocking on her bedroom door, but only she threw back the covers and let my cold feet touch hers. I can tell you about lying against the rattling floorboards listening to the shouts from below with dread, but only she lay next to me and put an arm across my shoulders. Only she sat at the top of the stairs listening, waiting for some invisible axe to fall with me. Only she met me in the hallway early on Christmas morning to shake presents and hold vigil for our parents to wake. Only she breathed sighs of relief with me, covered for me or threw me under the bus, included me or excluded me freely. Only I know how much I wanted to be like her, to be her - to be smarter and more beautiful and better liked. To not be so fragile, so out of control, so afraid of everything. To be stable and sure and smart and make everyone proud, like Wendy.

And as we grew and our differences became apparent, we drifted apart and back together, apart and back together again. There is no one that will speak or hear such horrible and finite things, that you would as readily welcome back in, as sister. There is no one who loves and hates the people who raised you, like sister. There is no one whom you trust to love your children better, than sister. Your life with sister is not linear, a ball rolling down a hill, but more like 2 balls trapped inside a square - sometimes together, sometimes apart - colliding, glancing off one another. Sometimes hurting, sometimes helping - but always together. Except when you are not. And now, we are not.

My sister bears the most witness to my life - all of it. Not even my husband or parents have seen as much ugly from me, as much vulnerability, as much triumph and joy. When my parents shunned me, or I them - there was always sister. My comrade forever, no matter what the fight. Our focus has turned from the stress of youth and petty arguing to worrying over those who once worried over us, and caring for children who will one day drive us mad, reject us, and break our hearts.

I expected I would have the opportunity to raise our kids in community, but despite my hopes, she took little Joey with her this morning and I am an empty armed auntie. Yet, I know that love is not a respecter of geography, and we are still comrades no matter where we call home. If you have a sibling, you can testify that no matter how tense the relationship has ever been, there is no one who knows your heart's foundation like he or she. The part of you that deeply remembers being a child, a part that is in your bones, and that you can feel as clearly now as when you were 4. The secrets, the whispers, the frights and hope. No one but sister knows what you know. I love you sister, no matter where you go or what life brings. Always.


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