We've had a very difficult relationship all our lives, ever since I was born, I guess, when she was two years old. As with every second birth in every family, our mother then had to switch a lot of her attention to me. This must have been a continual cause of anger and a feeling of injustice, but it was made even more extreme by an early event in my babyhood which my mother no doubt felt very guilty about and tried to make up for every day since it happened by giving me even more attention.
(In passing, it occurs to me that this sort of thing must be a major source of friction between siblings in a lot of families.)
Throughout our lives communication between my sister and me has alternated between long stretches of silence and intense periods of talk, talk which for both of us always had a repressed undercurrent. In me those negative feelings worsened lately, but for her they must have always been there too, unspoken. It all erupted suddenly a couple years ago. We stopped phoning, then carefully began talking again but this time only in the form of staggered letters (the kind that come in envelopes).
Nearly a year ago, while reading her last letter, I finally realized how far back her hurt and sense of injustice went, all directed at me. I had never seen it clearly before. And now I couldn't imagine, at our advanced ages, that any attempt to change all that would even dent it. So I gave up. No point in even trying. Also, by this time I had felt so deeply hurt for so long that I decided the only way to repair my self esteem, which had never been very high, would be to just end all communication for good. I wouldn't write that one last letter to defend myself that I had been working up to. So for the next few months I tried to forget about it all.
But the hurt kept returning, so eventually I gave in and decided it had to be done. I would write as soon as I was calm enough inside to handle it. And that took another month. But a less anxious day did finally came. It was during our short winter holiday from the open mic. I didn't have to worry about that for a week or two, but I would soon, so I'd better do the letter now. Well, I would the next morning anyway.
I woke up, had breakfast, opened my computer and was just beginning to think about how to go about it when Linda came rushing in with the phone and bright eyes. "It's your sister!"
I was astonished. And then I thought how lucky I was: I wouldn't have to write the letter, maybe. I didn't think till later how very very improbable it was that she would call at the instant I was about to write her. And not just any letter, but this one. Yet, when we were a lot younger this kind of thing happened often enough between us that we even tried to test whether we had telepathic contact with each other, unsuccessfully of course.
Anyway, she was only calling about genealogy. I thought, how strange that, when I'm going through such torment, she would just pick up the phone so casually and talk about ancestors. Well, it turned out to be a much bigger thing to her than I could have imagined. I had not known that genealogy, and family history, had been a huge part of her life since her teen years. I had no idea at all. And now, suddenly, she had been devastated to find mold in all her notes and files. She has a very serious allergy to mold and so had to throw them all out. At her wit's end, she thought maybe she could get me to work on the genealogy in her place (being I'm the only sibling she has) so that the family lines could be carried on, so to speak.
I was happy enough just to talk to her, as she seemed to be as well, so we worked on it. It turned out that I have in one of my boxes of stuff a lot of genealogy papers she had never seen, as well as copies of much of her stuff that some relative had passed on to me. She became increasingly excited, I began enjoying all the positive feedback, and we spent hours on the phone with each other, but always carefully limiting our conversation to genealogy, working out the mysteries, me theorizing all the time, of course, which I will do about anything, laughing, wondering, doing massive internet searches, etc. I had at first gotten into it to keep her happy and talking, but then found myself becoming involved just for myself. It seems we have a lot of Scottish aristocracy in our background, and so there are endless records, with many stories to read and mull over.
Then, on January 30th, the evening before my 66th birthday, for some reason which I've forgotten, I was more reckless and emotional than normal, and our conversation slipped into a deeper mode. I found myself telling her about my real self, which she was already beginning to see in all those phone calls, and impulsively, on a wave of sadness and a desire for true relating, I told her everything, and she me. The whole thing. Our lives as they had seemed and as they really were opened up before both of us. Our tears of sadness turned to tears of happiness. And I couldn't believe how easy it was. It was supposed to have been impossible. We were both there, sharing, open, equal, with each other. And, a few minutes after midnight, just into my birthday, after about four hours talking, we said "I love you" to each other, for the first time in our lives, and we meant it.
And the next day Linda did the driving in our rented car. We slid so easily and calmly through the light rain out in the country. I couldn't remember having been that calm for a very long time. Happy. I was actually happy.
Dave Jarrell, Sharon Wise, Amy Lavender Harris and 18 others like this.
Stan Burfield Just for you, Barbara
Like · Reply · 2 February at 20:14
Barbara Green Wonderful news, Stan ... it ain't over til it's over, eh?
Like · Reply · 2 February at 20:36
Stan Burfield You got it. When we're young we can't do any of this and we assume the people we are at odds with can't either. Rightly so. But when we get older and more capable, it's a big shock and a big learning experience to find out that they are now capable as well.
Like · Reply · 1 · 2 February at 20:40
Robert Gregory Seaton Wow, what a gift!
Unlike · Reply · 2 · 2 February at 23:30
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Cambridge Keenan That's so inspirational thank you for sharing
Like · Reply · 1 · 3 February at 00:44 · Edited
Lynn Tait What an incredible moment of sharing with your sister.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 3 February at 09:23
Patricia Black A very heartwarming family story Stan. So glad for you and your sister.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 3 February at 23:07
Stan Burfield Thanks, Patricia.
Like · Reply · 3 February at 23:57