Monday, April 30, 2012

For My Sister, On The Occasion Of Her 30th Birthday

My dear sister,

I have thought about you many, many times over the last few weeks.  I think about you a lot.  But more so recently, as you approach this milestone of your 30th birthday. 

In my mind, I've gone all the way back to the you I knew as a baby.  I won't lie.  I wasn't thrilled when you arrived on the scene.  I was 8 years old and knew enough even then to realize that bringing your poor little soul into the mix wasn't going to be a good thing.  I was selfish.  I didn't want to have one more thing to take care of.  I felt overloaded.  I think you knew that, even then.  You were fussy, colicky, and rarely smiled.  You managed to have your voice heard even as an infant.  I realize now that you were trying to teach me to speak up at all costs. 

In grade school you were such a spitfire.  You hit your teacher in kindergarten because she embarrassed you in front of the class.  Not one year went by without you being suspended for something or other.  You had a permanent frown on your face.  You didn't believe in hiding behind the walls of lies that I was helping to so carefully construct.  You taught me that truth is the ultimate freedom and that no amount of smoothing over will ever really make things better.

During your high school years I felt that we were really starting to communicate on a higher level.  I wasn't living with the family any more and it seemed that this made us able to speak openly about our home situation for the first time.  You seemed to have the self esteem that I lacked.  You refused to wear anything but the best.  No garage sale or thrift store stuff for you.  You were really beginning to succeed in all the ways that I had secretly wished for all along.  I really believed that you would somehow come out unscathed.  I had so much wrapped up in who you were going to be.  Far too much, it turns out.  I have learned that nobody can handle that level of pressure- especially not a young girl who came from where we came from.

By your senior year, everything had come tumbling to the ground in a massive heap.  I was so angry with you.  I felt like everything I had ever done for you was being thrown back in my face.  I felt so defeated as I watched your life unwind.  You threw away your Navy enlistment.  You ran away to live in a drug flop house.  You tossed everything valuable about yourself into a flaming inferno and watched it burn.  You almost seemed to enjoy it.   You were not me and I should have seen that.  I am so sorry that I believed you could just get through it all and manage to make a life for yourself once you were finally freed, as I did.  I didn't get it then that you only wanted desperately to have your own life, make your own choices- something I have come to appreciate on such a deep level.

As the years have gone by and we have grown further and further apart, you have let me know many times that you feel as if I judge you for the life that you have chosen.   I must admit that the life you live scares me.  It is sad and dangerous and far closer to repeating the life we had as kids than I ever would have imagined for you.  I could tell you that I want better for you, that you deserve so much more.  I'm aware now that this is not my place.  My desires for your life are simply that; mine. 

People often saw me as the 'smart' one and yet you got the lesson so much quicker than I did.  There is no value in living your life for others and what they would have you be.  Part of me is still that selfish 8 year old, but I am learning.  Life is not about covering up the imperfections.  Rather we should embrace them.  It is only then that we can manage to make any kind of real choices about whether or not we will keep or change the things that make us who we are.

On this your 30th birthday, I will thank you for the lessons you have bestowed upon me and wish you everything it is that your life is meant to be.  And mean it, without reservation.


  1. I know that this was a difficult letter to write. Clearly you have been thinking about your sister for a long time. Complicated relationships. *sigh* When you love someone you want the best for them, but the best is always the best as you perceive it. How can it be otherwise? You have stepped back from that to observe this scenario another way. Perhaps, she is seeing her best completely differently. If that is the case, it makes it all go down easier. It would be wonderful if we could all change the lenses on our personal cameras so easily. It would make understanding one another a much easier prospect. As you know, there are plenty of cases where it seems like endless head to wall experience.

  2. my older brother was very similar and very much in tune with the anger and injustice of it...but that is where he got trapped. You can't make people understand differently. But he did teach me a few valuable lessons that I will never forget. Hugs.

  3. We all know friends and family members with similar experiences. I do hope, however, that you are not beating yourself up. I would agree with Robin. This must have been difficult to write.

  4. @ everyone- difficult, yes. And freeing. So very freeing to know that it's not up to me to have to save the ones I love from themselves. We all try and sometimes it just won't happen, no matter how badly we want it. And that's OK because it's life and we're not supposed to always control it. And I am thankful for everything I have learned even through the pain.


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