Sunday, February 20, 2011


My sister called me a few weeks ago.

That's not a newsflash. She calls on a somewhat regular basis and we'll talk for a while, usually until one of her children attempts to do bodily harm to one of the other two. It's good to talk. I don't know why, but my sister and I get along at least a thousand times better on the phone than we do in person. Perhaps it's something residual from childhood, when I lived to annoy her, and she lived to let me know how annoying she found me. In person, we are awkward personified.

But on the phone it's easier. Maybe it's the thousands of miles between us, the knowledge that if one of us says something stupid, it's easy to avoid each other until the stupidity wears off. On the phone, we can be grown-ups. We can pretend that things between us have always been sunshine and ponies.

I'm told that when I was very young, we got along just fine. My sister didn't like to share things, but I was cute and little and only capable of being a certain kind of annoying. But we shared a room, and the older we got, the less comfortable that room became. We are two very different people, my sister and I. All I wanted in the world was to be just like her. All she wanted was to be left alone. I've lost track of how many hurtful words were exchanged, but I do know exactly how much of my therapy has been spent with me sobbing and asking John (my therapist) why my big sister couldn't just love me.

But I have an excellent therapist. He helped me to get past so much and understand that I didn't have to hold on to the past - I could let go, I needed to let go, and I would be happier when I did. I let go. I finally felt like I was in a really good place with my sister. I no longer cared if she ever changed. I was happy with me, and I was happy with her.

Then I got pregnant.

I don't remember how much I've said before about my sister's reaction to my pregnancy. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that she was not in the "I'll support you no matter what" camp. She made a half-joking offer to adopt my baby, and then spent the next several months telling me via e-mail why my baby deserved better than to have me as a mother. Thousands of dollars of therapy flew out the window. It was like I was seven years old again, crying to my mother that my sister had hurt my feelings. (My mother was unwilling as ever to take sides.)

If I thought that placement would ease that particular pain, I was wrong. I was in the lowest place I'd ever been, and I needed love and support more than ever. Instead, what I got (from my sister and the younger of my brothers) was that I'd done the quote-unquote right thing, and I needed to move on.

My depression turned to rage, especially when my sister announced her pregnancy. It took every iota of self-control I possessed to keep from throwing her words right back at her - "I know you think you're attached to this baby because you're pregnant, but ..." being among my favorites. When my niece turned nine weeks old, I fought the beast within me to keep from calling and shouting to my sister, "You've had nine weeks with her. Was it enough for you? Can you possibly begin to imagine not being her mother after this? Why don't you hand your baby to another couple to raise, right now, after two months, and tell me that the so-called right choice should have been clear and easy."

I didn't. I am immensely proud of that fact. No good would have come of it. A few months later my sister sent me e-mail with a sort of apology for her behavior. I don't want to get into it, because it's private, but suffice it to say that her apology irritated me almost more than that for which she apologized. Apparently, e-mail isn't any better than in person for us. It's a telephone call or nothing.

My sister came to the valley for a visit in September. It was marginally less awkward than usual. We did bond a bit during several phone calls about my mother's lightening-fast engagement and wedding. I suppose that the incomprehensibility of my mother's behavior was the common ground we needed to sort of start over. I remembered what I'd learned in therapy, and I decided I could start over as many times as I needed to.

I digress. That's not what I wanted to write about. I love my big sister. We're in a good place now, I think - unless, of course, she reads my blog (doubtful but still possible), and the preceding hurt her feelings. I hope it didn't. It honestly wasn't meant to. There have been enough hurt feelings between us over the years that I'm certainly not aiming to add to them. I really do love my sister. I'm not mad anymore. The past is past. This post was supposed to be a happy thing about something that meant a lot to me, and now I'm just blathering, aren't I?

Again, I digress.

My sister called me a few weeks ago. We shot the proverbial breeze for a few minutes. Then something happened that hit me like a Taser. My sister asked me about Roo. She wanted to know how my visit went, and how Roo was doing. I don't think my sister has ever once asked me for this kind of specific information. I hardly knew what to say. I had so many questions I wanted to fire back at her - why was she asking? Why now? Had she read any of my blog? Was she taking uppers? Did seeing her own little girl grow and change help her to see a sliver of what placement had cost me? Did she feel bad for being like everyone else and pretending I never had a baby at all? I bit them back. I decided I didn't need to know.

I answered her questions - what words Roo knows, how well she's walking, how happy she is, what a great visit we had. It was fantastic - it was glorious! I could hear my niece jabbering in the background, and I asked my sister about her little girl. I talked about my baby, she talked about hers. Just like we were two normal people. Like there had never been any awkwardness between us. Like we were dear old friends.

Like sisters.


AubreyMo said...

This post made me cry.

It's hard, so so hard to get over things that people have said in the past. And you're a bigger person than me because I am guilty of throwing it right back at them. I am so glad you and your sister got to talk about Roo.

A Life Being Lived said...

What an awesome, honest post! I have a sister too and our relationship is also complicated. She didn't support my pregnancy (actually demanded I have an abortion) and spent the whole 9 months telling me what a mistake it was. When I announced that I was considering adoption she was thrilled. I think she put a lot of her own uncertainty about becoming a parent (she's not sure if she wants kids) on me and I am still dealing with the negativity and trying to let it go. I'm soo proud that you took the high road. Even if her apology was backwards or awkward I love that you can now look forward and share details about both of your daughters. Some people just don't "get it" and unfortunately some of them happen to be family. I'm glad you can make progress little by little!

Amy said...

I'm glad you and your sister found some common ground and are in a good place once again.

Savannah said...

This post makes me jealous. I'm glad you were able to move on and get along with your sister. I'm jealous that you were able to do that after she had her baby shortly after you placed Roo. I'm also extremely jealous that she asked about your Roo. And I'm slightly jealous your therapist seems to be helping so much. Not to be all negative; I'm also happy you have been able to recreate a relationship with your sister.

Anonymous said...

I heart this post VERY much!!!! You are one of the strongest people I know ( I mean one of the strongest people I blog stalk)!!! amaze me. I can't imagine having that family dynamic in the hardest time of your life and how you stay firm, and hold your toungue, and pretty much have so much grace through it all! I am so happy to hear that you were able to have a "normal" talk about your babies as sisters:)

Thanks for letting me indulge in your blog!!!