Often, I am asked if I am close to my sister, and I usually pause because I would like to say yes. Reality is I am not. However, it doesn’t diminish the hope that stems to bring our ties closer together, and work on a relationship where the roots were deeply planted long ago.
Unbeknownst to me, my sister wanted to come up for my birthday this coming September. She planned on surprising me(and my parents) by coming into town on the weekend closest to my birthdate. I haven’t seen my sister in over four years.
Growing up with my sister was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde experience; I wanted to be close to her but at the same time I did my best to stay lost when her temper flared up. We didn’t have any common interests. I wanted to hang out with her and I did but it didn’t seem to foster the feeling of being close. I realize now that part of my problem was I was afraid of her. I had zero ability to communicate with her; I didn’t know I had my own opinions. I just did as she told me. I knew she loved me, but sometimes it was her reactions that scared me and somehow it led me to believing I had let her down.
I looked up to my sister, but I didn’t grasp this until I found out she had shoplifted. She was around 15-16 years old at the time, and a fire lit in me that wouldn’t blow out until I had my chance to express my opinions to her. A quiet rage fumed in me; aiding me to realize that my sister wasn’t perfect but up until that time – she was perfect in her imperfections. Memories of what I said to her exactly are foggy, but she said afterwards that my words stung more than what my Mom had to say to her.
It’s a funny thing to think back, and recognize that I had encased her in a glass with snow falling all around as she slowly turned around on my pedestal.
I was 14 years old when my parents officially separated and later divorced. Just like parenting, there is no instruction book on how to survive a divorce. A staff person from Madonna House articulated it for me that divorce is a death of a family. No doubt about it, the family that had been my foundation swirled down the rabbits hole. My sister was 17 years old at the time and a year later she moved out on her own. That’s when I think she started to fade, and in all honesty I didn’t know who this person I called my sister was anymore.
My life became detached from her because we were both angry at each other and at situations we had no control of in our lives for various reasons. Even when I became Catholic, I hoped she would be a part of it, but she never appeared. It was hard to understand why she wouldn’t want to come because growing up I had shared my life with her whether I wanted to or not. Not having her there seem to cement even further the fact that she wanted to distance herself.
When my sister moved out across the country that was when I realized it wasn’t just miles that separated us, but we were divided in heart as well. Before she left things had not been in our favour. Words dangled all around us, but they were left unsaid, and feelings hurt were hidden. Our pride was bent and out-of-place, and the desire to stay connected was misplaced. Of course, I loved my sister, but circumstances led me to wonder if I liked the person she had become.
Bluntly, I realized no, I didn’t like her, but my love for her held despite my mistrust and anger at her. For a year, my sister did not communicate with us.
I don’t remember what inspired me to start sending cards but I have to attribute it to the Holy Spirit. Each month I would send a card that either told her I loved her or encouraged her or both. Together with my mom who was sending her cards as well, my sister slowly began to respond to us.
Starting over again was slow and gradual, a steady path to regaining some kind of resemblance of what I grew up surrounded in. For me, family was my mom and my sister, we did everything together, it’s what I remember the most. She was part of the memories imprinted from my childhood. Even though they are limited due to my depression, I have come to rely on her memories to help me put pieces together that have been stolen from me.
Time always shows us the way; it’s the process that gets in our path. Circumstances have taught me how much my sister does know me. It’s a surprise because I didn’t think she was paying attention to who I was becoming. Her care and diligence is a sweet balm. In other ways, she is still learning about the other parts of me but she’s a willing student. She is attentive to the delicate fibers that are woven deeply inside of me.
Maybe the definition of being close can stand to be altered. Healing broken parts that did not know how to speak for themselves, to be transformed into the love that we needed most. I am seeing a woman, my sister that I always knew was there, but I didn’t know if she would ever have the courage to emerge and flourish into the person I knew she was made to be.