Monday, August 11, 2014


All the pictures from my childhood show sisters 22 months apart.

From the way we're dressed 
and our body language
it would be easy to think we shared 
days of playing inseparably by each others sides
nights of giggling under the covers, 
laughing at goofy private jokes
exchanging secrets.

Easy to think -
but wrong.

There were plenty of secrets in our house 
but they belonged to the adults.

There were also explicit, and implicit, messages 
forbidding us from ever discussing them;
the consequence of which
was that 
we were left to deal with our confusion
and pain
in isolation.

We shared genetic material
but little else.

I remember being jealous of her as a child.
She was clearly my grandparents, and parents, favorite.
They didn't even try to hide their partiality,
explaining that she was the first born
and it was 'normal' to like them better.
I grew up hearing "Why can't you be more like your sister?" 
on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis.

Then, in the mysterious way that works in dysfunctional families, 
our roles flipped when she hit puberty 
and I had perfected
being 'good'
and invisible at home.

I remember being protective of her as a teenager,
when her pain and confusion led her to make a series
of destructive and dangerous choices -
with consequences that followed her to adulthood.

I know the broad brush strokes of her life -
multiple relationships and marriages
(each one to a man further down the evolutionary ladder);
children born to, but not raised by, her;
spotty employment;
years of what we termed 'going underground' -
disappearing with no family contact for years,
reappearing briefly
only for an infusion of money
and moment of attention.

I don't know the details that make up her life -
how she feels, 
what she thinks, 
who she loves,
what she believes,
what she regrets
or longs for.

When my mother died, 
I contacted her through Facebook.
I had no other information; no address or phone number.

I was shocked when she came to the Memorial service.
It was the first time my brother, sister and I had been under the same roof
in over 25 years.

It was also the last contact I had with her;
that was over 2 years ago.

Her Facebook account has been deleted.
The phone number she gave me is inactive;
email messages to her online 'address' bounce back.
I know because I tried to reach her.
Today is her birthday.
She is 67.

I don't know anything about her life
but I hope she knows joy;
I hope she's found peace.

Given her history,
I suspect that's naive, unrealistic
and not likely to have happened,
but I wish it all the same.

Happy Birthday, Sis.

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