Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Let's talk siblings!

In honor of yesterday's National Sibling Day, let's talk about those relationships that are often a mixture of love, competition, petty fights (and some not-so-petty ones) and at the end of the day, respect. They can be all at once frustrating, fascinating and fantastic. I've talked about my sister before, but I'd love to share a little more of our story today...

My younger sister, Janelle, and I are twins, despite our four-year age gap. We talk alike -- we’ve been known to spontaneously burst into a British accent, riddled with bloody this and cheeky that. We think alike -- my aunt once commented that we seem to have our own sister language because we could finish each other’s sentences and know instinctively what the other was thinking long before a single syllable ever escaped from our lips. And my mother used to say that we both share the same hurried gate, a mixture of frenzy and determined energy -- though I bustled around in my wheelchair while Janelle laced up her slick white Nike’s and set off to pound the pavement. Until my father’s death, I never understood the deep bonds of sisterhood. Our lives are changing and our paths are beginning to diverge on the metaphorical trail that has become our shared existence. And all the while, I’m not so sure if I’m ready to swiftly wave goodbye to our shared history and enter the real world without my partner in crime. After all, it had always been us against the world. Will the solo woman I become vastly differ from the little girl who wrapped her gangly arms around her little sister in a childlike bear hug?
Janelle was born when I was a four-year-old little redhead. There was some concern that she would also have Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, so my parents did their homework: They visited three geneticists, one of whom said my Freeman Sheldon Syndrome may have come from my mother’s side. And then, ever the thinkers, my parents contemplated, discussed and contemplated again. Apparently, they thought a sibling would be good for me, so on a chilly fall day in October, with the colorful leaves falling from the trees, we welcomed the newest member of our family. As the story goes, I was as proud as if my new baby sister was my own daughter as my father lifted me high up so I could peek through the glass walls of the tiny incubator to get my first glimpse of her big bald head and shiny blue eyes. I was the first one to see her, even before my mother, and in my child mind, that somehow gave us an extra-special bond.

But our roles were often reversed growing up. Because of all my surgeries and the fact that the hospital became our second home by the time I was two years old, my sister had to grow up fast, bypassing a totally typical childhood for the sterile halls of doctors' offices and hospitals. She was a little person in a big, scary medical world, getting shuffled around to family members during my surgeries so my parents could be with me at the hospital or sitting for hours in a hard hospital chair. A child shouldn’t know the words needle, IV or operating room better than words like playground, toy or Chuck E. Cheese, but she never once complained. Instead, she took care of me, playing games with me as I lay in the large hospital bed and telling me about all the exciting things she and my father did while they were home by themselves.

So when my father died, I worried about my sister more than ever. I became her protector and felt this intense need to take care of her, to give her the stable sort of life she missed out on during her childhood. I thought that if I could just hover over her like a mother hawk, I could ease her grief and prevent anything bad from ever happening again. I couldn’t physically take care of her the way she did for me all those years, but I could be the emotional rock -- the stability -- that she needed. But maybe all my motives went far deeper than that. Maybe it was my way of taking care of her, of paying her back for all those years she took care of her big sister. Maybe I even felt guilty that my little sister was robbed of her idyllic childhood because of me.
A few years ago, I happened to glance at her as she emptied the dishwasher. And she was a carbon copy of my father. Her mannerisms, her meticulous technique of placing each bowl in its proper place -- it was all my father. And yet she also looked like that little girl who once screamed in sheer joy as he pushed us halfway to the sky on the playground swings. I got a tear in my eye as I realized we’re each other’s last link to our father. She’s the only other person on Earth who’s had the same childhood and who will carry those memories of being with our father in her heart like I do. We may grow up, but I know we’ll somehow always come back to each other. And maybe for a little while longer, it will still be us against the world.

Do you have siblings, friends? How has your relationship changed since childhood? Are you closer now than you used to be? Are you alike? Different? Do you think the sibling relationship between brothers is different than it is between sisters? What do you love about your siblings? What's your sibling story? xoxo

P.S. A very, very (very!) exciting giveaway is coming up soon! :)

[Top photo via National Sibling Day]

21 comments:

Charlotte {Charlotte's Web} said...

I have a brother, we get on but never see each other. i see him maybe twice a year, if that, and never speak to him between visits.

We shared a childhood, but I think it drove us apart more than anything.. we see things so differently, and while he see's a rough childhood as an excuse to act out, I see it as a reason to reach for more.

despite that, I love him to pieces

Fashion art and other fancies said...

I have a twin-sister and other siblings. There is always love, competition, jealousy and so forth in all families, love is more important than being petty.xx

Rachael said...

It sounds like you have such an amazing relationship with your sister. So special. I'm an only child so i'm use to it being just me so I can't imagine having that bond.

Jenny in Ohio said...

what a lovely tribute that was! I am sure your sister is going to love it!

I have an older brother who has always been his own person. I suspect he has Asbergers, but he's never been diagnosed, and getting diagnosed now won't really do much since he's 33. I was sort of embarrassed by him for a long time because he just...isn't like anyone else, at all. I mean, I would of course defend him to the death, if someone was making fun of him or something, but I was embarrassed. Now that I'm older, I've really grown to love him and find all the things he does and talks about very endearing. He really is the kindest, sweetest guy who wouldn't even hurt a fly ever.

Melissa Blake said...

I love these stories!! Yayyy for sibling! xoxo

Dancing Branflake said...

This is incredibly beautifully written. Those memories... I feel like I was with you during each of them.

Elle Sees said...

Have one sis 21 months younger and one 18 YEARS younger. I'm closer with my youngest sister though.

Mo said...

This is sooo sweet! Your sister will be so touched to read this. I have no sister but two really great best friends. I do have 3 older brothers, my relationship with each of has fluctuated through the years and is an overall work in progress that I hope will progress positively.

oh,henry! said...

i have a younger sister and when we were living with our parents, we could never get along. was one long war. :) after few years of being apart, we started living in same town and we spent more and more time together. she became an adult woman and a great person. she's a bliss, really. i love her and i've realized my life without her wouldn't be the same. we're three years apart and are very different. she's all i'm not and vice verses. we're great together. :)
i love the two photos of you and your sister. i always wanted ginger hair. a-do-ra-ble, really!

Melissa Blake said...

Elle -- Wow! I couldn't imagine having a sister 18 years younger than me. My mom is 12 years younger than her older sister, and she's always through of her as more of a mother. Is that how it is with you and your sister?

Melissa Blake said...

oh, henry -- it's amazing what a little distance can do, isn't it?

Sabrina Musco said...

amazing !!!i'm following your blog!!!!

Freaky Friday

Freaky Friday Facebook Fan Page

Melissa Blake said...

Hi Sabrina - sooo nice to meet you! Thanks for the kind words!

littleyana said...

This made me cry. It's everything I imagined between me and my sister. I am one of your silent readers and I say, your kind of writing gets me inspired. How easy for you to translate your feelings to words. Exactly what I want to do.

Anna said...

This was very moving. I wish I had a sibling. I used to think it would make it easier to handle the loss of my father too, but now I see it in another perspective.

You should never blame yourself for the childhood she had! After all she wouldn't have had a loving sister like you are!

Anonymous said...

I have a sister 5 years older than me. She did so much for me growing up - teaching me how to read, how to play - it came naturally, and she is a professional teacher now. We are closer now that we are 27 and 32.

My Mom had a painting she she hung in each of our rooms growing up that I thought was lame at the time but love it now: "God made us sisters, Love made us friends."

the lil bee said...

That is so sweet that you saw your sister first! My daughters are each other's best friend. Devon is constantly hugging Blake so hard, and neither one can fall asleep without the other in her crib on the other side of the room. Melts my heart!

Danie at Pasadya said...

This is so sweet, Melissa. My sister and I pretty much always got along, but we were never really "best friends." Since we've both graduated college, we are a lot closer. It's so strange how she can say or do something that drives me crazy one moment, but then she melts my heart the next. I don't know what I would do without her.

It's pretty much the same with my husband and his two brothers...I think as we grow up, we realize that the bond is important, and we start to appreciate one another much more than when we were little.

disabled girl anon said...

I think the relationship between siblings is the most beautiful thing in the world. Not everyone's able to understand it since not everyone has a brother or sister. My 24-year old brother died a month ago due to drug overdose. I love you Matthew...

Melissa Blake said...

oh, disabled girl, i'm thinking of you and sending you lots of hugs.

Hollie said...

This is the sweetest! Does your sister read your blog? I have several siblings, but I'm closest with my little brother, who is 24. He lives in another state, but we talk everyday. I don't even know what I would do without him.

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