This change in our status, from a one-child household to a two-child household, has been a positive one overall. The girls seem to be getting along well, there has been a 70% increase in daily giggling, chores are getting done, beds are (sometimes) made, and so far no one has engaged in fisticuffs of any sort. I’m calling it a victory so far. Yay for us. ;)
Watching K engage with a sister for the first time has unearthed a few of my own demons, however, and I’m faced with having to decide what to do next.
My sister, T, has not communicated with any member of our family for nearly six years now. (Actually, I should amend that – when my mother broke her leg about two years ago, I called her cell phone. She did not answer it, of course, but did call me back later. Once she ascertained that Mom was not going to die and that I had things under control, she hung up. The conversation lasted five minutes. I haven’t heard a word since, despite repeated attempts to call and write her.)
T has some powerful demons. I sometimes – often, actually – wish she would let us help her fight them, but those offers have been left on the table, untouched.
It is strange, at this stage of my life, to essentially be an only child again. At times it feels overwhelming. I wonder how to handle things like my mom’s rapidly deteriorating health – I want her to move into our house, so I can help care for her. She insists on staying at her own home, 20 miles away, where there are no first-floor bathrooms. I am at a loss whether to push much harder, for her own good, to bring her here, or if I should let it go for now, with the nagging feeling that eventually a true disaster will strike and she’ll either be here or in a nursing home. I am captive to the multiple push-pulls of caring for two generations and working a job outside the house…which incidentally needs a coat of paint. The house, not my job.
I worry about T, and wonder if I should reach out to her more aggressively. My attempts to reach her have been alternately ignored or slapped away. I wonder if my role is supposed to be to push her hard enough to make her angry, accept the lashing out as a step toward her recovery. And then I worry that, if I push too hard, she'll just go deeper underground and won't reach out to any of us -- ever. I try to just let her know what is happening; to leave emails or voicemails, but there's never a response...I'm not even sure if her email address is still valid.
But if when things go terribly wrong, and mom ends up in trouble, or something happens to another family member, I know I will hear all about how I should have tried harder to let her know what was happening here.
Which leads to a confession: there’s a part of me that is afraid, deep down, that T won’t be there to help even if I DO let her know, and I just don’t want to be disappointed again. Yes; she has her own weight to bear, but her lifetime pattern of exempting herself from any real interaction (at least with her family) is starting to harden me a bit. Honestly, I don’t like feeling that way, but I find I can’t see my way past it.
I used to have a sister who was my best friend. Adolescence was a strain, but there was a part of me that was sure, ultimately, that by the time we were in our forties, we could be sharing cups of coffee on Saturday mornings, and sharing the joys and struggle of our live, and lending a hand to each other when we needed it.
I’m realizing that those Saturday mornings probably won’t ever happen, that the sister I thought I would have again some day has been lost along the way, and like a mother whose son has gone missing in war, I'll have to accept that loss without a chance to grieve it.
It’s taken watching my girls start to become sisters to fully realize what I’ve lost, and I’m not sure how to move forward from here.
I just know I miss my sister.