Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Leighatard (Get it? She hates that.)

There was a howling, an anguished unearthly wailing, coming from across the hall that sent me scurrying toward her door. The closet was slightly ajar, leaving strips of light across the otherwise darkened room. I absentmindedly patted the head of the worried dog as I made my way to the bed. She was curled in a tight ball around her pillow, her thin back shaking with the effort to control the shrieks that escaped between clenched teeth.

I sat on the edge of the bed and smoothed the hair back from her face. “What’s wrong, honey...what’s going on?”

“I...can’t...c-c-c-can’t do it!” Her wailing got louder and she writhed in place as if in physical pain.

After a few minutes of petting and coaxing, I managed to figure out the source of the problem – that damn boy. Their relationship had been rocky for several months and he’d broken up with her a week before this meltdown. She seemed fine for awhile; she even turned him down when he came crawling back a day later. He wasn’t what she needed in her life, she said, his path was filled with trouble. And I wholeheartedly agreed.

As I watched my little sister’s heart break over a two year relationship I thanked God, or whoever was listening, that no man had ever broken me down that way. Not that I would even let them, I silently added. I held her, rocked her, told her everything was going to be ok, and finally left her when she was quiet and calm.

She had a few more episodes just like that over the following weeks. I became less patient, less kind, and more irritated with each one. During the last, I informed her that if she woke me with that noise again, I would punch her in the ovaries. I have a startlingly low threshold for handing out sympathy, though I often demand plenty of it from others.

We are polar opposites, my sister and I. Dark versus fair, common sense versus book smarts, earnest versus lackadaisical, right versus wrong,(though the lines on that last one are blurring more as she gets older) fire versus ice – she’s blazing a path, and I’m perpetually frozen.

I admit, she’s everything I wanted to be in high school – pretty, popular, thin, captain of the cheerleading squad (though that was a brief wish, and only in the darkest of hours), driven. She’s never once let me forget, be it intentional or not, that I was then, and am now, everything she aspires not to be. First – a nerdy, unpopular kid that started smoking and drinking to be cool. Now - a single parent, living at home, with no degree.

On my worst days I am bitter for all the opportunity she has laid out in front of her, all the positive attention she receives from our family, and all the scars I bear that she doesn’t. But on my good days, which I’m glad to say are more frequent, I’m proud of her, encouraging of her success, and thankful she wasn’t raised by the same parents. Besides, what aspiring writer isn’t tortured by their own bad choices, the choices of others, or in my case – both? My parents made this prolific bed, but I turned down the covers, fluffed the pillows, and crawled right in. (That smells like a book dedication...)

I also admit she’s everything I despise, and have always attempted to set myself apart from. Shallow, emotional, too accommodating...perfect. As much as I wanted what she had, I didn’t. I suppose the truth of the matter is that we both think we’re better than the other. I make fun of her reading; she makes fun of my clothes. I make fun of her enormous nostrils; she makes fun of my frizzy hair. I make fun of her spelling ability; she makes fun of my blogging.

She was a quiet, sensitive child and against all odds, a daddy’s girl. Why he decided to handle her with kid gloves, I’ll never really know. My mother had the same sensitive personality and he treated her terribly. Whatever the reason, she was spoiled and petted and nurtured into the smart, entitled young woman she is today.

I love my sister, but sometimes I feel as if we’re next door neighbors – waving to each other across the fence and wondering if one or the other is responsible for our missing Sunday papers, never exchanging more than is absolutely necessary. We’re only seven years apart, but sometimes it feels like a lifetime. Our relationship has improved in some ways, gotten worse in others. I keep waiting for that day when we’re old enough to be best friends – I want it (when I’m not imagining punching her), but I don’t think she does. Maybe it’s just her age, maybe one day she’ll want it too.

Each milestone she reaches is a bit of a shock for me, though that may be because they all started happening at once. The first time she got in trouble at school, had sex, did something incredibly stupid and dangerous and laughed about it, got drunk, had her heart broken, applied to colleges – all of that and more crammed into less than two years time. And I think I’ve struggled with it more than she has, more than our own mother.

She just turned 18 last week and she graduates in less than a year. I wonder if, when she leaves, I’ll be the one curled up in the bed wailing with a broken heart. I wonder if I’ll regret not walking across that hall to comfort her more often – for letting bitterness and jealousy shape a large portion of our relationship.

I wonder if she’ll call me – just to talk. Or if she’ll be like me at that age – walking out the door and never looking back until it was absolutely necessary. What bothers me and makes me happy all at once, is that I know, for her, it’ll likely never be necessary.

Suddenly I’m the sensitive one.


Baglady said...

Such a wonderful portrait (of you both). You have a very light touch on the sentimental posts - just perfect.

And selfishly am glad you put this up so quickly.

Simple Dude said...

You'll find lots and lots of opportunities to connect with your sister as adults. My brother and were not terribly close growing up, tho in our defense there is a sizable age gap.

But as adults we have become closer and more "brotherly". No, thats not a word, and really it shouldnt be.. maybe I should choose my fake words more carefully.


Roxanne and Lorraine said...

My older sister is only 5 years older than me, but there was always such a divide...

Until one day there wasn't. I can't tell you how, or why, it happened but one day we woke up and we were best friends. We understood each other better, and genuinely wanted to be friends.

My little sister is only 3 years younger than me, and some days I fear, we'll never get there.

A great peice, and one that I can obviously relate to. :)


Eric said...

Sometimes it *is* tough to talk sense into siblings. Your sister seems a little less thick than mine (she's 26 this year).

Lyds said...

Though it may be of little comfort, I was the same younger sister (actually scarily similar) and just want to let you know, that relationship will come. For me, the second I hit "grown-up life" (college, etc), my respect and appreciation for who my sister is and continues to be just grew. Today, we are closer friends than ever and looking back I wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks for the gorgeous post.

Jo said...

It's selfish, but I am glad you are a tortured writer!

I have a younger brother, and although we are now much, much older some of these feelings still persist. A dash of jealousy, a splash of antagonism, and a sprinkle of obligation that you don't feel for anyone else. But underlying those there is still a feeling of reliability and the sense of a bond that makes it worth ignoring those feelings in a way that you also can't manage for others. Go figure.

Red Cynic said...

I really enjoyed this post. It reminds me of the relationship I have with my sister. Thanks for sharing.

JUST ME said...

My brother and I are so different - the only thing we share is our need to talk with our hands.

csmith2884 said...

What a great post I am an only child but have six kids. I hope that sometime they reflect on each other as much as this.


Just Plain Tired said...

My two kids are six years apart in age, and were like oil and water mixed together when younger. Now that that one is 27, the other 21, they finally get along great. Hopefully it'll happen for you and your sister as well.

BugginWord said...

I always suspected the relationship between sisters was something like that, so much more complicated than the one between brothers and sisters.

Stunning as always. You bitch. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

"Suddenly I’m the sensitive one." ??

Writing the way you do, you've been sensitive for a loooonnng tome, you're only just now letting it out. All your posts are really good, but the last several have been done exceptionally well. You tell a great story and you handle the more delicate areas just perfectly.

Didactic Pirate said...

I love reading stuff like this. I'm an only child, and sibling relationships always fascinate me. I dig that you and your sister are that close, and that you're the one who can give her comfort when she needs it.

And she'll always need you.

Beta Dad said...

Lovely post. I was a little disappointed because there was know. Maybe that's your next post? But still, I enjoyed this a lot. My relationships with both my sisters are complicated, and they keep changing, even though my oldest sister is almost 50! We just can't quite get it right.

nova said...

I love the visual. "She's blazing a path, I'm perpetually frozen."


Dana said...

This is beautifully written and reminds me a lot of the relationship between one of my sisters and I. I think relationships with sisters are always complicated, there is something about growing up together that often allows old resentments to surface at the most inopportune times, but also allows love to surface when it's most needed.

csmith2884 said...

"Lovely post. I was a little disappointed because there was know. Maybe that's your next post?"

We can always hope....lmao

Ed said...

The sibling relationship is a complex one.

Sounds like you're a good sister.

BrightenedBoy said...

You have so much talent as a writer and there is so much just waiting for you to achieve. Never doubt that your time will come. Just keep pressing forward.

As for not having a degree--that can always be remedied. My mother went to school while raising three children. It took her longer, but she did it, and you can, too.

Your sister is at an age that doesn't often lend itself to empathy or understanding. I go through the same thing with my younger brother, who is fifteen and also seven years younger than me.

If she has any maturity or stength of character to draw upon, experiencing life will both strengthen her against future woes and temper her tendency to judge.

In the meantime, I'd say that you should be good to her but not let yourself be disrespected.

Mashonda said...

What a delightful post.
I had trouble when my little brother started growing up. He's only two years younger than me, so it makes sense that we're so close. On the night of his formal (I guess it's like a prom), I cried when we dropped him off. And don't even talk to me about his graduation!
I'm a massive girl though, so you'll probably get through everything with a lot more dignity.