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.
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.