I’m going to see my sister, Grace. You have no idea what this means to me. None. This is a dream come true. I have waited for her my whole life—the little girl that shared the bed across the way; the little one that used to tickle my back and try to make me guess what letters she was drawing; the one that always had a matching outfit—in a different color, of course, was always so much smarter than me, prettier than me, sang like an angel, looked after me, hid under the bed with me, cowered under the sheets across from me, laid under the Christmas tree with me, looking up at the lights wondering what Santa might bring this year, even if Dad did throw the Christmas tree across the room.
When we were little we were very close. As puberty approached, she was relentlessly hard on me. I think I irritated her just by being in the same room. I remember hearing her sing on stage for the first time in a school musical. I imagined that was what it must be like to hear the angels sing. It reduced me to tears. So much fear in our home and there she was standing on stage, singing—completely disconnected from all of it—like an angel. I couldn’t stop crying. It was as though I had witnessed a miracle—there was hope. We could be free from all that terrified us.
When I went to tell her how proud I was, she completely dismissed me and accused me of being jealous. Okay, so that moment was over. But I wanted desperately to learn how to sing like an angel, too. I wanted to be free from the fear. It was as though music could keep all the negativity at bay and I wanted that more than anything. She did try to teach me. For that I will be forever grateful.
Because of the way we grew up—the most common theme in our house was to try to keep out of the way of pending trouble. We learned to scan a room, listen to the conversations to see where they were going and make sure we were out of the line of fire. This constant state of fight-or-flight didn’t allow us to share the common bonds of sisters. We couldn’t laugh together, get in trouble together, or do the simplest of things, because as much as we watched out for each other, there was still this sense of “every man for himself” that sat just below the surface. We were already so vulnerable that to share anything might make us weaker, giving way to more hurt. Therefore, we did not share, we did not laugh, we did not cry. We waited … for our freedom.
With that freedom there was a need to disconnect from all that might tap into those memories of fear, negativity and hurt and the desire to be “normal” far outweighed the sense of family that we knew. The desperate attempts to create families of our own that did not involve or evoke those memories were probably what drove us apart, that need for normalcy.
After our oldest sister, Leslie, passed away, I sent my Grace an email explaining that although we had not really taken the time to know each other or be the kind of sisters we’d seen from other families, this was our opportunity to try, to break the patterns set up by our mother and father, to stop being estranged and start being sisters.
It has been two years since Leslie passed. I miss her. Let me clarify, I miss “Sissy.” I’ve missed her for a very long time. She became her mental illness and it was so hard to reach her that the fight-or-flight syndrome I’d learned as a survival technique was my first reaction toward her with each conversation we shared. She died without anyone from her immediate family being near. She wanted it that way. That makes me sad on so many levels. I failed her as a sister and that will stay with me for a very long time.
But somehow, even though Grace and I have been through some additional “life battles” since Leslie’s passing, we have learned to reach out to each other and try to be the sisters we never were. It’s not been an easy road for either of us—but we are fighters. We are survivors, and in the past two years, we have learned to get to know each other, learned how very similar we are, how differently we see things, our various viewpoints and memories of our childhoods, and in spite of all the odds, we are sisters. Do we appreciate it more than the average sister? On levels unimagined.
I am going to spend Easter with my sister. She bought me a plane ticket and I am so excited, I could just squeal!
Easter is the resurrection of Christ. It seems so appropriate to share this weekend together, as we have resurrected our relationship and have broken the chains of our past. We will love each other in spite of our mother and father. We will support each other, we will cry together, laugh till we wet our pants, have our nails done, watch movies, eat popcorn, go for walks, play with her dog, and share time with her children. These moments and events, they seem so simple and perhaps even meaningless, unless you’ve never had them. Then, they mean the world.
I wish I could just hug her when I get there and take away all her pain and fear and exhaustion. Yet, in spite of all that she feels, she still fights. I admire her. I understand her, perhaps better than any other because of how we grew up.
I have waited so long for her. So very long and quite frankly, I think I had given up on that idea and even convinced myself it was simply that—an idea. Something I just was not meant to have. Something I had resigned myself to accepting. Yet, just as I did not have a relationship with my mother, God found a way to grace me with the motherly love of other women and role models, in place of my mother. I have been blessed to have girlfriends that, in my mind, are as close as what I would consider a sister and for that I am so thankful.
But now, I have my sister. I’ve missed her so much that I cannot even begin to explain what I feel. It is a miracle on so many levels.
We went from little girls to women sweating our way through menopause before we could be sisters. Ironic. Now we share hot flash episodes instead of PMS moments.
My soul is smiling. My soul is shining. My soul is so very happy. These tears are decades of relief that she is still alive, still sane, still loves me, and finally … my sister.