It was so good to see her this morning, looking slim and trim in a black top and brown slacks. She’d just finished her appointment with Dr. Awesomesauce, and we all went through our dog-and-pony show where he pretends not to know that we’re sisters, then introduces himself to me with a wink and shakes my hand. The three of us know it’s all an act and so does everyone else in that office, but we must observe the proprieties or die!
We have an interesting relationship, my sister and I. First of all, we were born at opposite ends of the Baby Boom and she was my caretaker for my first five years of life, which were indisputably the best of my entire childhood. She bathed me, diapered me, made me feel secure; she also taught me to read and to tell time while other preschoolers were still playing with blocks. Then, just after she graduated from high school she was thrown out of the house by our parents, essentially for loving the “wrong” boy, and shortly after that was in a car wreck that nearly killed her.
Meanwhile, I was five years old and being treated like a mushroom—in other words, my parents kept me in the dark and fed me bullshit. I hadn’t been given an explanation of what was happening, or even allowed to say good-bye to my sister as she was leaving; and then seeing her all banged up in a hospital bed, dazed and confused from pain medications, really messed with my head. In fact, I trace the beginning of my psychiatric problems all the way back to that time, because it was when the night terrors began along with my preoccupation with death and dying, and things only got worse from that point.
Anyway, we became close again after our parents were gone, despite the fact that we are literally as different as night is from day. She is quiet, introverted, and a lady, while I’m larger than life and can cuss in five languages. She’s a moderate Democrat; I’m a conservative Republican (though we both watch Fox News). She’s had issues with prescription medications; I’m an ex-drunk. She suffers from chronic depression; and of course my readers know what I’m diagnosed with.
We don’t even have arthritis in the same places. And while we agree on many things, we seldom arrive at our conclusions from the same direction. But there’s no one who knows us better than us…..not even our spouses or our mutual psychiatrist.
So it hurts to see her in an assisted living facility where she’s unhappy, even though we both know she needs to be in one and she’s determined to make the best of things. The community she’s living in is far off the beaten path, and I’ve not been impressed with the place for several reasons, not the least of which is their failure to notify me when she fell a few weeks ago. Having been a director of nursing services in a few such facilities, I know more than the average bear about how things are done, and I’ve fired people for some of the nonsense that goes on in this one.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, you know. The three of us—my husband, my sister, and I—were supposed to grow old together, sitting on the porch of this big old rambling house and watching our grandchildren and great-grandchildren play on the front lawn. But time marches on, and sometimes it marches right across our midsections and crushes us.
In the meantime, her senior portrait still sits on the dresser in her old room, showing her as I like to remember her best: a beautiful young woman with soft gray eyes focused on a future filled with promise. There’s another similar picture around here featuring myself, with my long wavy hair falling over my shoulders and a calm expression that belies the turmoil within.
Our lives have turned out very different from the ones we dreamed of when those portraits were taken. And we are very, very different women. But we will always be sisters—and friends—to the end.