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Memoir Bytes – What is a Sister?

Vision perception

Memoir Bytes – Sister Love

Sisters come in all shapes and sizes and so do the relationships we have with them. We have best friends and tribe friends we sometimes call sisters and sometimes we don’t have to be blood related to someone to think of them as a sister. But there are just some sacred things that sisters share that nobody else could fill those shoes. So today I’m writing about my one and only sister who is 6 years younger than I am, although many times in my life I’ve considered her my big sister.


When I think back to our growing up years in our dysfunctional family, there were 4 of us and my sister and I each had a brother we chummed up with who stood by our sides through thick and thin and defended us when it came to secret oaths, ‘not to tell mom’. But my sister and I had never developed a closeness when we were younger. Being that she was the youngest and I the eldest, and her having the least guidance from our mother, she was a bit of a wild child while I was anal about trying to be the best I could be to avoid my mother’s wraths. Marni was fearless.

When we finally got our own bedrooms, I was glad for my privacy but would often scream at my sister for snatching a sweater or blouse out of my cupboard. We had nothing in common with our age gap, and to me she was just a pest. But our relationship changed when I turned 18 and moved away from home, Marni was only 12 years old.

By the time I turned 20 we became friends. And when she’d had enough of my mother’s rants she’d flee to my apartment for some sanity and peace of mind. Oh how I took on my mother when she’d call to scream at me about my sister running away and telling me that when she gets home what her next punishment would be. I’d reply the same thing as always and tell her, better Marni was with me than out on the streets. And so my bond with my sister began to grow.

D.G. Kaye and sister


I was single, going to University part time and working part time. Money was tight and through the next couple years, Marni quit school and started waitressing. She made more money than me in tips alone and I’ll always remember how she’d come over, buy me a quart of milk, a pack of cigarettes and give me $20.

My sister married young, and if you ask me, I think her decision to marry young was enhanced by her desire to get out of my mother’s rule. From the get go there were problems, yet she had 3 beautiful children with that man who she finally wound up booting out when the kids were still very young. Her kids were and are like my own.

Our relationship moved to her house from my apartment as she’d never leave her kids with a babysitter, and we had many card and game nights through the years where our girlfriends would congregate at Marn’s to pass an evening together. Those years were especially life saving for me when I was stuck in an abusive relationship for many years and I’d run to her house for refuge.

There was always drama in our family, lots of sickness, too many deaths, financial issues, abusive relationships, and a narcissistic, demanding mother who gave us grief on a daily basis. But somehow, what didn’t kill us certainly strengthened our relationship.

I was always spiritual, interested in magical things, laws of the universe, spirits of the dead and witchcraft. I was gifted with a sixth sense and an inner knowing passed on through my grandmother and mother, all of which my sister didn’t believe in. In my early 30s I became very interested in natural health and studied naturopathy for years, while my sister would laugh and say I’m crazy to believe in ‘that stuff’. We were certainly different in our beliefs, yet we got along.

My sister was always the ‘Florence Nightingale’ in our family, the first to rush to anyone’s aid should they need it. I always had a great fear of blood and hospitals, and did my best to dodge having to be around sick people. My empathetic nature makes me very uncomfortable around people in pain.

When I was diagnosed with a tumor on my heart valve in 2006, my sister’s kids were in their mid teens and she left them for 3 weeks to come move in with me and my husband to take care of me after my open heart surgery. I couldn’t even change my own bandage without wanting to vomit, but she did that, showered me, propped pillows around me so I could sit comfortably when it was time for bed, as I couldn’t lie flat for a few months. She drove me to the numerous hospital visits prior to the surgery for tests when I lived a good hour and a half away from that hospital.

When my siblings had taken all they could from our mother and I hung around for more, my sister begged me to get her out of my life as she exasperated my flare ups with my Crohn’s disease. It took me a few more years of taking my licks until I finally walked away too, and still, I carried the guilt. My sister used to tell me if I didn’t find a release for the guilt I carried I’d be a mess the day our mother would finally die. I’d tell her I can handle it. We both knew I was lying.

I began writing Conflicted Hearts a few years before my mother died, and the writing became my savior. Although I wasn’t completely cured of guilt, writing the book became therapeutic. And then once again, at the brink of my mother’s death when new guilt had set in for my abandoning her and my resolve not to go back one more time, I knew I had to find closure. I had to find forgiveness for her and for myself, for my decision to remain estranged. Writing P.S. I Forgive You was emotionally painful but when it was all said and done, the weight of guilt had finally lifted. My sister is proud of my accomplishments, yet still hasn’t brought herself to read those books. Some people just refuse to go back ‘there’.

Our once large family has dwindled. Our parents are gone and so are all of our aunts and uncles. Marni and I are now the matriarch. We’re still different in so many ways. I am the feminine, she the masculine. I like girly things, she’s happy in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. We find solace in one another when hard times strike, and celebrate our victories with one another. No longer does she borrow my sweaters. But she’d give anybody the shirt off of her own back.


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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • Judith Barrow

    Oh,Debby, I have read this with tears streaming. I so envy you both your relationship.My sister and her second husband have spent years taking offence at something my husband or I have said… and spent years refusing to speak to us. Each time it has been me who, eventually, after much upset and agonising, has tried to make things right.(If only for my peace of mind and because it upset Mum) We too lived in a dysfunctional family because of my father and all his issues. She is older than me by four years, always went to different schools, we never seemed to be at home at the same time and we never had anything in common that we could talk about. She was married to a lovely man by the time I was fifteen. After that break up was the first time she and her second husband stopped speaking because we stayed friends with her ex. That trend continued, as I’ve said. Last year my sister stopped all communication because she discovered I’d written my memoirs. (she is a very private person to be fair and I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and need to talk… a lot) I think we both tried to be courteous if we met by Mum’s bedside over the last twelve months but there was a flare up again because her husband was still not speaking. Mum’s funeral was dreadful in so many ways; my sister organised everything without any of my suggestions or input, they wouldn’t speak to us even though the only other people were the carers from the care home Mum had been in during her last year and the words spoken by a man from the funeral directors my sister had written herself. I didn’t recognise my mum in anything that was said. There was no get-together, no reconciliation. My husband and two daughters travelled home in stunned silence.
    After a fewdays of thinking about what had happened I wrote the following;

    It brought me some understanding and some peace.I re-read your words “We have best friends and tribe friends we sometimes call sisters and sometimes we don’t have to be blood related to someone to think of them as a sister.” . And they brought me comfort;. You are right; I have three friends I’ve always considered “sister” and some “tribe friends/sisters”.in the real and in the online world. While I always think ‘never say never’… it is possible I will not have any further contact with my sibling as they live two hundred and fifty miles away. So for your post, and the words above, thank you. Judithx

    • dgkaye

      Judith. . .thank you for sharing your heart here. As you know, I too wear my heart on my sleeve, I think that’s what is part of our makings of being creatives. I too need to talk, vent, write, while my sister is quiet and doesn’t like anyone to know her personal things. But so much has changed through the years and I think the events with our mom and with the hardships we’ve endured, our bond tightened helping her to open up a little more. We have always been different than one another and have locked horns in our younger adult years too. But I think what was different was that 4 of us kids all knew the same about my mother and endured in different ways. No matter our own differences we had only each other to run to.
      It is sad when we can’t make amends with a loved one, after we know we’ve done our best to no avail and have to find a way to live with it. Your sister relationship, in a way, seems like the one with my mother. After 50 years I learned that’s the way it was and I couldn’t change things. That’s what inspired me to write my latest book, P.S. I Forgive You because I had to find a way to sort out the hurt and disappointment of what had grown through our lifetime relationship. Not sure if you read it yet Judith, but it’s FREE now, and maybe it can help you with your resolve with your relationship with your sister.
      It’s sad when we want everything to be perfect and no matter how hard we try it’s beyond our control. I feel for you truly, and I read that heartfelt post you wrote that you’ve linked here. It was raw and beautiful and sometimes those closest to us in blood can’t understand what those who know us best, like our tribes, do.
      Wishing you peace Judith, happiness and love! xo Deb

  • marianbeaman

    This is So Sweet, Debby. Age differences that seemed mammoth when we were kids, appear to shrink with the passing years. This is a fabulous post and I hope that “sis” reads it. My favorite line: No longer does she borrow my sweaters. But she’d give anybody the shirt off of her own back. 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Marian. You make a good point, various age differences in relationships change as the years pass. Even marriages when one is much younger than the other, changes as the years pass, in fact, that’s what my next book is about! Thanks for reading Marian, and yes, that last line came quite naturally to me, but holds much truth. 🙂

  • Annika Perry

    Debby, what a phenomenal post – wow, I’m blown away reading this. So open, emotional – a wonderful moving tribute to your sister, your lives together – wow, you have both gone through so much, from such a young age. There is so much I want to say, a whole evening’s conversation, suffice to say that I am so happy you and Marni have each other – when as children you fought, now you fight for each other. Terrific final sentence to sum her up: ‘No longer does she borrow my sweaters. But she’d give anybody the shirt off of her own back.’ This is a post I will remember well. Hugs to you both xx

    • dgkaye

      Oh Annika, thank you so much for your beautiful comment on my very personal post. I’m glad it struck a chord with you. Happy holidays my friend. 🙂 <3

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    Debby, such beautiful memories of you and your sister born out of love and necessity. I never had sisters, except for foster children my mom would take in when I was a teen. Unfortunately, those were painful times forvme, since I couldn’t bond with any of them. I value my relationships with my two sisters-in-law. Moving and heartfelt, Debby!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Terri. It’s funny how we sometimes take our relationships for granted with family when others only wish there was one sibling they could have a special relationship with. I’m glad to hear you found that bonding with your sister-in-laws. Like I said, we are blessed to have our friends and tribe that feel every bit like a sister. <3

  • Tina Frisco

    Deb, my heart broke while reading this. I hopped over to my sister’s (the one who doesn’t speak to me) Facebook page and burst out crying. I love her so; and I won’t let her feelings toward me close my heart. I’ll bear the hurt and find a way to deal with it. But I had to connect somehow, so I called my other sister (the one who does speak to me) and had a good cry. It helped so much. Then she told me a little story about her grandson, my great nephew, Grant. He’s 5 years old. One day when she picked him up from school, they passed a fast-running stream. He asked, “Grammy, if I fell in that river to the bottom and couldn’t get up, would I die?” She asked, “What do you think would happen?” “I would be bones,” he answered. “That’s what would happen to your body,” she said, “but your spirit would go to Heaven and you would be with Jesus.” Then, very seriously, he said what only a child could come up with: “Grammy, I try to think about Jesus; but all I can think about are toys.” I laughed until my sides hurt. I realized once again that tears and laughter are the same. Each, in its own way, is a great release. I think it’s the same with hurt (me) and anger (my sister who doesn’t speak to me). Each stems from a deep well of pain. I guess what I’m saying is that if we dig deep enough, we’ll find common ground; and from that place, we can begin to communicate and heal. But each person has to want that. I’m so sorry you never found that with your mother. I hope I find it someday with my sister. And I’m so glad you and Marni found it while you were young. I feel the gratitude in your telling. I feel the love you two share. To have met such a person as yourself has been, for me, a blessing. Thank you for this heartful post and for once again revealing a deep part of yourself. It is in the giving that we receive. I know you receive my love and hugs … ♥♥ xoxo

    • dgkaye

      Aw Tina, thank you for sharing your heart here. I’m sorry if my post made you sad, but on the flip side, I’m glad it prompted you to call your other sister. And yes, we’ve talked about such cute words ‘out of the mouths of babes’, they have a way of filling our hearts.
      You are so right, we can make the effort, we can ‘lead a horse to water’, but we cannot make them drink. I tried all my life with my mother and it was a wound that lived inside me, but I finally found my way through it, and somehow you will find an acceptance somewhere down the road with your other sister. You were blessed to have 2. You said it, it’s in the giving that we receive. We also meet people for reasons, remember? Blessed to have your love and hugs. Back at you my dear friend. xoxo <3

  • Bun Karyudo

    It was very interesting to read about your relationship with your sister and how it changed over the years, Debby. It sounds as though it took a bit of time before you were both old enough to truly appreciate each other, but I don’t think that’s so surprising given your 6 year age gap. For, say, a 16-year-old, a 10-year-old is like another species! 🙂 It’s great that as you got older, you were always there for one another. People don’t always get on with their siblings. I’ve seen plenty of examples of this among my own relatives. When they do, though, they are often among the very strongest friendships of all.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Bun, thank you for your lovely comment. Yes, I’m blessed to have a good relationship now with my sister, especially that we grew up distant and in so much dysfunction, it was surprising that we wound up forming a close bond. And you are so right, at certain ages, the gap is more noticeable than in other stages of life.
      Happy holidays to you and yours, wishing you good health and happiness for the new year and onward. 🙂

  • Sherri

    My dear friend Deb, I read this via FB, but I wanted to say here too how profoundly moving I found your post, how strong and enduring and beautiful your bond with your darling sister Marni. You are both amazing women, thank God you have each other… <3 <3 <3

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Sher, for dropping by at your busy time of year, through FB, lol. Yes, I’m blessed to have a sister and a tribe full of wonderful sister friends like you. <3 <3 xoxo

      • Sherri

        Had to Deb…but I will be disappearing after today, but of course will see you over on FB. Aww…thank you my dear, wonderful friend…sister friend! Love you Deb…and I’m going to say it one more time here on WP – Merry Christmas to you, and a Happy New Year! I’ll raise a glass of cheer to you and thank you for your wonderful friendship! See you soon! 🙂 <3 🙂 xoxoxo

  • Ann Fields

    What a beautiful tribute to your sister and to the power of being open-hearted and loving. Like you and your sister, my sister and I did not become close until we were adults. Now, you rarely find one of us without the other. I treasure our relationship; a truer relationship doesn’t exist for me. Your post is a great reminder to tell my sis how much I appreciate and love her. Especially during this season when a lone family’s love (Jesus, Mary, Joseph) is our model. Thank you for sharing these heartfelt words..

    PS: PS: I Forgive You is on my TBR list. Can’t wait.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you so much Ann for your kind compliments, and for sharing some of your own sister story. I’m so thrilled to know that this post has inspired you to remember gratitude for the relationship you have with your own sister. It seems this post has touched a few readers here in different ways as they recall their own memories with their sisters. But isn’t that the power of memoir writing, sharing snippets of the author’s life and having the readers identify with something in their own life. Perhaps this post was well timed with the holidays. 🙂 Again, wishing you joy and happiness for this holiday season. <3

  • Kate Johnston

    What a beautiful homage to your sister, Debby. I have four older brothers, a younger sister, and a younger brother. My sister, Sarah, and I had our issues growing up–mostly competitive, sibling rivalry stuff as we are two years apart. She is vivacious, extroverted, a people-person and outshines me in everything! It was very difficult to be in the same room as her as we were teens and into college, and our relationship suffered. When I complained to my mom once, she described my sister as an “interloper” because she had this way of inserting herself into everything, turning the spotlight onto her. It wasn’t an insult, it was merely a way to show our differences, and it really did help me be less jealous and more accepting.

    Now that we’re older, my sister and I have found a very good, solid, working, loving relationship. I call her out when she’s over the top, and she alerts me when I’m being too stiff and closed-off. 🙂

    Sisters are wonderful, and even though a relationship with a sister can be fraught with major, complex issues, I wouldn’t turn mine in for anything. Sounds like you’re pretty lucky, too. 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience Kate. I love how my memoir byte has given other readers the desire to share some of their own feelings about their siblings.
      It’s always interesting to learn how other siblings interact, especially when there are quite a few in the family and closer in age. It can be difficult as a child to feel as though one has the spotlight more than another, and somehow through the years we grow through that adjusting our opinions and hopefully reaching that point where we can accept our differences and embrace the siblinghood no matter our difference in personalities. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you and your sister have found a balance to solidify your relationship.:)

  • Ali Isaac

    I have a beautiful younger sister too, but we rarely see each other, even though we were so close when we were younger. We live in different countries, we both have families and busy lives, the years tick by and suddenly you wonder where all that time went. We made a pact to spend a weekend together, just like in the old days… hmmm… which city will we pick? Cant wait! First time we’ll have been together, just the two of us, in years and years. I enjoyed reading your post, sometimes we need reminding. Hugs to you and your sister. Xxx

    • dgkaye

      Oh thanks so much Ali for visiting and sharing here. I know the clock ticks away quickly on us, that’s why it’s important to take a breather and remember to do special things before we find it’s too late. I’m so happy to hear that you are going to reconnect with your sister, if only for a short time, gives a lifetime of memories.
      Big hugs to you and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours Ali. <3

      • Ali Isaac

        Thank you, and to you and yours! How’s your hubby doing? Oh and do you want to know the really weird thing? The very moment after I left that comment on your blog my sister sent me a message asking when I was coming over! Talk about coincidence!

        • dgkaye

          Aw thanks Ali. I’m happy to say at the moment, my husband is much better than he’s been recently. And how lovely – your sister messaged you about your date together. I don’t really believe it’s coincidence, more a message from the universe to finalize those plans! <3

  • elainemansfield

    In the midst of so much family suffering, how wonderful that you and Marni saved each other over and over again. I have Soul Sisters, but not birth sisters. I had a mellow relationship with my brother, but didn’t see him for long stretches. When he got sick, I made it my business to be there–a lot. “I’ll need you in the end,” he said. He needed me and I was there. I feel this way about my sons, too, but with women it’s about those deep old friendships, many of them 40+ years old. When I was flattened by life, they showed up. I do the same for them. Blessings to you and yours. I’m glad to hear your husband is doing better.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Elaine for sharing some of yourself here and for your well wishes. Yes, I’m blessed to have a sister, and also to have some wonderful friends who come up to bat when I need them too. I don’t have children of my own and I do worry about getting old and the what if’s, but I’m grateful that my sister’s children are close to me. It’s important to have a tribe. 🙂

  • Barbara

    Your tribute to your wonderful sister is just beautiful. I lost mine to cancer three years ago but you have inspired me to write about her on my own blog. Thank you for the inspiration. I look forward to visiting your blog often.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you so much Barbara, for visiting, and for sharing. I’m so sorry to learn about the loss of your sister. But I am happy too that I have inspired you to write about her now. I look forward to visiting your blog. 🙂

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