Tag Archives: sisters

From a Brother, To a Sister

I got a text from my sister that simply said, “I want you to know, I love you”.

Most times, you can’t decipher whether the person texting you is trying to be funny, serious, sarcastic, or buttering you up to ask for something.  For some reason with this text, I sensed there had been true weight behind her words.  I texted her back, “I love you too” and hoped the substance of my text would be felt, in turn, by her.

Thankfully, we have moved past calling each other buttface or hinting, not so subtly, that one of us was adopted and thereby loved just a little less by our parents (neither of us were) unless the situation demands such words.  We have adult conversations.  We have arguments.  We laugh at the inside jokes the two of us have shared since we were kids.  We hold tightly the bond, tempered by a lifetime, a brother and his sister have.  So while the text came as a slight shock it was not unprompted.  The other night, we lost a family member.

My cousin Michael died.  He died without warning and now my family is in mourning.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t close to Michael.  Not for reasons built on grudges or hard feelings but Michael was quite a bit older than I am.  And like life has a tendency to do, our lives kept us busy and away from each other’s company.  Before you have time to blink, the days had turned in to years.

Regardless of how long it has been, in my family, coping with death becomes almost like a reunion.  Family members ignore distance and keeping schedules to gather together.  We show up and come in.  We bypass knocking on the door because our hands are full with food and our arms are prepared to embrace whoever is closest to us.  We grieve together.

So I went to Michael’s sister’s house.  I needed to go, and more to the point, I wanted to go.  So I could bring food and I could fill my arms with whoever was closest to me when I walked in to the house.  I reached out to hug Michael’s sister, my cousin, and could see the hurt in her face.  I could feel the fracture in her heart.

Her brother, her best friend, was no longer with her.  He would no longer be able to laugh at the inside jokes, still find it funny to play ‘Got You Last’ at the most inappropriate times.  Michael wouldn’t be there to push the sibling rivalry (that never goes away).  My cousin no longer has one of her shoulders to cry on and one of the people she knew would be there to pick her up when life hit too hard.

So I grieved, even though I knew so little about my cousin Michael.  I grieved his loss and I grieved for his sister because while I haven’t experienced it, I understand what she is going through. Across her living room, standing amongst the rest of our family, was my sister.  I could see in her, the trials and tribulations we have been through.  I saw the good times, the bad, the great times, and the times we have yet to experience together.  I looked across the living room and there is my best friend and the thought of not having her would devastate me.

My heart breaks for my cousin.  There are no condolences or masterfully woven words I can offer to her other than “I’m so sorry”.  Because the words escape me at the moment so all I can do is offer a shoulder to cry on, to have the strength to help her up if she ever feels like she can’t do it on her own, an inside joke to laugh at, to start a game of “Got You Last” in the middle of church if that is what she needs, and to do all the things which come from a brother to a sister.

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Big Sister

Even when they are moments away from breaking in to a Jets vs Sharks showndown in the living room, I can see it in Emma’s eyes. As they are in a tug of war over the Nintendo DS, Emma has that look.  When they play house, or dolls, or school together, it is definitely there.  When Emma is trying to beat Hannah in a foot race.  That look every younger sibling has for their older sibling.  Emma is three years Hannah’s junior and tries every day to close that gap.  She wants to do the same things Hannah does (and doesn’t understand why she can’t).  When Hannah isn’t home, Emma is lost.  When Hannah has friends over, Emma can be spotted not far behind, tagging along.  I see that look Emma has in her eyes when Hannah is reading her a book or “teaching” her math.  I can see it in her eyes because I have the same look at my sister.

I’m three years junior to my sister.  From the moment I got that look in my eye, I have worked to close that gap.  I have been the tag along. I have been lost when my big sister wasn’t around.  I have voluntarily been my sister’s very own crash test dummy.

My big sister showed me how to go up the steps and then told on me for going up the steps.  She taught me how to ride a bike (by taking off my training wheels and shoving me in the back down the sidewalk).  I helped her win a bet by swallowing a worm (I don’t remember sharing in the winnings).  I played Barbie dolls when I wanted to play G.I. Joes and Transformers.  I played doctor (actually I played the patient) and took my medicine, which was Scope…that I had to swallow or else get punched.  I got in slap fights with her and lost. Making both of us laugh got both of us in trouble at the dinner table.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager did I truly believe I wasn’t adopted like my sister told me I was.  According to my sister, second child is just first loser.  And I was lost when she wasn’t around.

My big sister saved me from social embarrassment by keeping me updated on what was “cool” and what was not (everything in my closet apparently).  She helped me when I didn’t know what to do or say to an angry high school girlfriend.  She took me back and forth from college (and always gave me $20 when she did).  She was the one who told me our father would be going in to rehab (and who I held after finding out until my arms were weak).  She has bought birthday, anniversary, and Christmas presents for people and put both our names on them for years.  She was the first one I grabbed after our father died and held her again until my arms were weak and my eyes couldn’t cry anymore.  She was the one who told me it was now my turn to be the “man” of our family and she would be there to make sure I do it right.  She has given me a niece (and goddaughter) and nephew that I hold as close to me as my own kids.  She is the first one I call when I need an answer to anything (and she answers at anytime, day or night).  She calls on snowy days to make sure I got to work safely.  She is the one that I would give life and limb for.  She is the one, if she asked, I would eat another worm for.  And I would be lost if she wouldn’t be around.

So when Emma is punching, pushing, or yelling, or crying to Hannah, I want to tell her I understand (right after I punish her for punching, pushing, yelling, or crying to Hannah).  I want to tell her that it will get better.  That at some point you won’t be a tag along.  You won’t have to eat too many worms (but won’t mind so long as she gets to win a bet), you’ll be thankful she took your training wheels off and pushed you down the sidewalk (and no…you were not adopted).  I want to tell Emma that it is all apart of growing up as the younger sibling.  Like a rite of passage or a Fraternity Hell Week that goes on for most of your young life. But I want to tell her that it is all worth it because when you need $20, or a car ride back to school, or advice, or someone to lean on, or someone to hold on to when you are scared or hurt or lost until your arms are weak, or when you need a best friend, just like me, she’ll have her big sister.