Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I have a sister

I think everyone knows this, at least my handful of loyal readers do. I have blogged about Amy and my brother before. I have made references to my sister in Korea teaching Kindergarten and left it at that. I have not delved too deep mind you, it feels like it is too complicated to blog about, your heart of hearts wants to say one thing and your head stops you, fingers poised and frozen above the keyboard.

It is an intricate arrangement when viewed by outsiders I am sure, but to us it really is as cliche as, "it is all we know" this entanglement of being family who have never lived together. The short version of the back-story is my parents divorced when I was quite small, my Dad remarried when I was ten and had two more children a boy and a girl. It was a bittersweet dream come true for this only child. I wanted a brother or sister all my life and here they were, but they were not really mine.

No matter how happy or well adjusted an only child is there is a deep down yearning for a sibling. This was the case for me at least and the funny thing is I am sure had that ever happened, my Mother ever had another baby, I would have not been happy. I craved quiet and order, lost in my world of books. Nothing made me happier than to be holed up in my room with my "brother" Smokey (our dog) a pile of books and a snack. I could (and still can) amuse myself for hours with imaginative play, books, puzzles and games. No one to play with? No problem, I would roll for Smokey or hold his cards. I am sure this sounds like a tragic mess and Hubby would argue that I am always a bit to eager to play a board game, but my childhood was hardly unfortunate. It may not have been conventional, but I was well taken care of ensconced in a comfortable middle class life and loved by four parents.

At the ripe old age of eleven when my brother came along I was quite content in my own room and having my own bathroom. Spoiled? For sure. It was however, the only life I knew, I visited my Dad, Step Mom and brother and sister regularly, then returned to my real life. There were hardships too, but on the grand scale of things my life was charmed.

I wonder now as an adult what I really thought of this arrangement. Did it really all seem so normal to me? When my parents first divorced it was not at all amicable, they did not speak. As time wore on though and they both remarried (the same year) they came to develop a workable friendship, all of them in fact. My Mom and Step Father and Dad and Step Mother would play euchre together, spent many New Years Eve's together and we celebrated my birthday together often. My Mom attended my brother's wedding this summer.

This is most certainly not the norm for divorced families and there were definitely issues, but they got resolved over time. I am sure my Step Mom was not exactly thrilled that my Dad and Mom occasionally met for dinner to talk about me, but she certainly never made me feel bad about it. She came to understand that my Mom and Dad while could not seem to live together, had a bond that went back to childhood. He loved both these woman that much was clear. My Dad once told me I was his first true love, I know he loved me even if I didn't have the benefit of having him around much in my early years. I really believe he got a second chance at fatherhood when my brother and Amy were born.

Then unexpectedly at age 48 my father passed away from essentially a massive heart attack. It was six weeks after I got engaged, August 10, 1996. At the time Amy was two weeks shy of her thirteenth birthday and I was twenty-five. We were at two very different places in our lives, it was not the time for us to share this experience. It was just too impossible then.

When my sister was in Korea for nine months last year I convinced her start a blog, I knew she would never be able to capture those moments again once she was home. She did and it was a fun way to us to keep in touch, something beyond email and phone calls which were orchestrated with military precision. The fourteen and sometimes thirteen hour time difference was a real challenge it seemed, as my girls were on their way to bed, she was getting up to start her day.

What I didn't expect over the course of her stay in Korea was to get to know my sister. It took for us to be halfway around the world from each other to open up, to bear our souls and share our grief. Prior to her going away we were both impervious to what the other was going through. We shared our lives on the surface, but never reached down. We come from English stock, it would have been scandalous to show weakness such as it were. When we had the safety cushion of a few thousand miles were able to peel back our layers and really talk to each other as adults. I felt like I have waited for her to catch up for years, now we were in the same place and shared the same language. What had been bottled up for years on my part, I was able to share with her, this other person who lost a Father.

When Amy returned we all overjoyed, especially Rosebud and Papoosie Girl, Auntie Amy was home. We had the whirlwind of the wedding and next thing you know it was September. By October Amy was living in Ottawa. This has been hard and while she is not as far as Korea, we can't exactly pop by for a visit. Close but not really is the new situation.

Amy is a wonderfully funny, witty, caring and smart woman. She is at a place in her life - she would say "life" where you are supposed to make decisions, tackle those crossroads that lie ahead of you taunting. She has resurrected her blog and I hope she doesn't get mad, but she could probably use some kind words of encouragement. I don't remember being as aware as she is during my post university days...then again I was already on my course having met Hubby at university. I finished school with a pretty clear plan of where I was heading. I wish now sometimes I had floundered around a bit, chased some of those dreams. At the time though I was chasing my dreams...

Amy is a wonderful sister. Our relationship is different perhaps from others, but at the heart of it is a strength of family that no amount of convention could define.


Mad Hatter said...

Jen. I am a basket-case tonight. This post made me cry. I am glad that you have Amy. I know how great sister-love can be.

Don Mills Diva said...

Wow - I am tearing up over this post. It just shows that all families are different but they can grow to love each other deeply no matter the circumstances. Thanks for sahring - lovely post.

Beck said...

I always wanted a sister.
I have one brother born the regular 2 1/2 years after me and then - surprisingly enough - another brother born 13 years later. I've always felt more like his mother then his sister, but thank God I'm not really his mother because HE IS NOT TURNING OUT WELL.

NotSoSage said...


This was a lovely tribute to your sister. It's funny how distance can sometimes bring you closer, isn't it?

Mimi said...

This is a beautiful post, Jenifer -- and I know what you mean about how blogging can show you part of someone you never noticed when they were right next to you (like me and Mad Hatter, for example, knowing each other better online than in 'real life').. How wonderful that you are getting to know each other, now.

Family is a process, not a template.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had a sister. Instead I have a brother with whom I lived for 20 years and who is a complete stranger to me. Really. I frequently forget about him and tell people I'm an only child. Yeah, I need some therapy.

But it is so sweet that you appreciate all that you have.

Also, need to confess: I'm a little jealous of Amy. Not that I'm unhappy with my life, but 24? Ooh, the potential of 24 makes me green.

Her Bad Mother said...

She's so lucky to have you. And from the sounds of it, you her.

Christine said...

sisters are great, no matter how you come by them she seems like a great person--like you.


Aimers said...

I don't know what to say other than thank you. Thank you for writing this post. Your faith in me makes me have more faith in myself. I've always looked up to you and my admiration, respect and general awe of what a wonderful mother, wife and sister you are is constantly growing. To all of you who are faithful readers of my sister's blog, I just want to say I think I have one of the smartest, most loving sisters in the world. She is an amazing woman, sister, mom, wife, and friend and I'm lucky we're family.