Friday, October 15, 2010

happy birthday, whoever you are

Somewhere out there, I assume my sister is celebrating her 41st birthday.

Over the years, every time I have tried to write about my sister, it has turned into volumes and volumes of information that I don't really want to end up on the blog. It's not at all that I mind sharing with you guys, it's that I worry that some day she may want to come waltzing back into my life and she may read this (or have read it, or may be reading it for all I know), and that would just be a whooooole 'nother layer of "she said/she said" bullshit that I would not be prepared to deal with.

The general gist is this:

  • I'm 43, she's 41. We're 2-1/2 years apart.
  • She has been in and out (mostly out) of mine (and my parents) life for over 20 years.
  • I haven't seen her in almost 13 years.
  • Although I've been told that she saw me when I was in the ICU after the accident 6-1/2 years ago.
  • She phoned me while I was in the ICU a day or so after being brought out of a 2-1/2 week medically induced coma. She was angry and upset with me because I had a positive attitude (which I did, but it was improved my morphine, I am sure of it), and she spent most of the phone call crying about how depressed she was over her own minor health situations, and why was it that I was always good at everything, and she never was, even when it came down to being sick.
  • Most of the time I completely forget that I have a sister, and I live my life feeling like an only child...until I reflect back to being a kid, and realize how much of my life was influenced by having a sibling.
  • I have always wanted to have a sisterly connection with her, although I don't think we'd ever have enough in common to choose each other as friends.
  • My first episode of dislike for her was when I was about 3 years old. We had a house next to a pond and my sister would stomp all the baby frogs into frog pancakes.
  • I have a huge level of upset for the amount of stress she puts my parents under, especially mother, who is probably crying her eyes out today (or having and extra glass of wine or two).
  • I have no way of contacting my sister if there is an emergency. No phone number, no address (although I have now discovered what city she lives in).
  • My sister has even changed her name.
  • The town I have been told my sister last lived in is small, and because it's on the way every time I drive north to see friends and family in Oregon or Washington, I stop in this little town for gas. I fantasize that I might see her on the street of the little downtown, and my heart races while I wonder if I'd even recognize her.
  • I do this little dance so I can pat myself on the back for at least trying. It's a pretty self-serving attempt at feeling better about things.
  • And now for a secret I have been keeping from you all (sorry). When I was driving back from Seattle this summer, the day I took this photo, I had stopped in this little town, and I went into the local bookstore on the main street to buy an audiobook to listen to on the rest of the drive. While I was being rung out, I asked for the local phonebook. I looked her up and of course, she wasn't in there (I have already done the wider internet searches). The lady asked me who I was looking for.
"A long lost sibling, who prefers to remain a mystery, it seems. Her name is Barbara. Oh, but now I think she goes by Katherine." (I gave the last name, but I 'aint givin' that here kids)
"Oh. Katherine."
"You say that like you know her."
"I do know her."
*she gives my credit card receipt and a pen so I can sign it"
*more silence*
"Like, you know her well enough that if I left you a note, you could get it to her??"
"Yes, I know here well enough to get a note to her."
*more silence*
"Can I have some paper, please?"
So I wrote the stupidest most superficial not-thought-out-at-ALL note, really just saying that we missed her and loved her, and if she ever wanted to get it touch, here was my address and phone number.
But WHILE I was writing the note (get this one), the lady behind the counter picked up the phone, dialed it without looking anything, and said,
"Katherine. This is so-and-so from the bookstore. Something just came in for you. You should come in and pick it up."
Okay. So I finished the note and said thanks and kinda freaked out and left. And I have never heard from my sister. And I have been kicking myself for not including an email address. So this week I sent my sister the first birthday card in over a decade, to her, in care of the bookstore. I am sure it will result in nothing.
  • And that was wayyyyyy too long to be a bullet point (interesting though, isn't it??)
  • One of my biggest fears in life is that the next time I see her is when my parents pass and she comes to see me to ask for what she thinks is coming to her. My parents have promised it is all written down so I wont need to deal with that level of bullshit during a time of grief. Please be the case.
  • Going back to my mid-twenties.....back then I made an attempt to fix things with my sister (it was not the first attempt, and clearly it was not the last). She had already disowned me and/or my family at least twice, maybe three times, but this time I reallllllly made a huge effort to put everything behind us. I thought it went really well. She acted like it did at least. We hugged and apologized to each other for stuff, and she agreed that we could move forward on a better path now that we were older. And then she never called or spoke to me anyhow.
  • So for her birthday that year, I gave her a CD ("The Juliana Hatfield Three: Become What You Are". It's one of my absolute most favorite albums of all time ever, I love every single track on it, I still listen to this album all the time and sing along way too loudly to it when I am alone in the car, and still to this day there are tracks on it that make me happy-but-not-so-happy-cry. I'm pretty sure that my sister knew that Track#2 was being pointed at her directly when I gave her that gift.
That gift might be why she still hates me. But if it that's the case, she wasn't really listening. Anyhow, at that point I had given up trying, and words had escaped me. Which is pretty much where I am back to again now. I'm kinda done. And I have done all that can be done.

The Juliana Hatfield Three
~My Sister~

A little interesting fact-oid footnote for ya': Juliana Hatfield doesn't have a sister.
(unless she really does, and her sister is like mine)


The Bon said...

I'd not heard that song before, but it totally sums up how I feel about my older sister. Made me cry, not that that is hard. ;) xoxoxo


That is such a sad story.

I always wanted a sister, but I have three brothers.

Pickyknitter said...

I forget I have a sister too. She certainly ain't worth stressing over. I hope that if your relationship with your sister changes, it is for the greater good, and if it does not, you do not beat yourself up over it! PS. did you listen to NPR two weekends ago? One of the shows (This American Life, maybe?) was all about "frienemies"

M-H said...

I also forget I have a sister. And that's fine with me, and also with her, I suppose. She knows where I am; I don't know where she is. But I can relate to your story: one of my sons did this disappearing trick a few years ago, for his own reasons - in London! We couldn't contact him when his father died. He did pop up, about a year later, in a deal of trouble from which I rescued him. He's now really quite settled and on OK terms with me, although still not interested in contact with his siblings. He's still extremely angry with them, and with his father, for perceived stuff from the past. Maybe he always will be.

Jill said...

It happens too often. It's sad, and hard, and leaves us feeling bewildered so much of the time. My husband has a brother who has disowned us all (including his own kids), changed his name, disappeared without trace. As far as we know, doesn't even know that he's got 5 grandkids. But his lawyer was soon in touch when his mother died. :-(

Kathy said...

Hi, that hasn't happened in my family but to plenty of friends I know. I'm sorry that it's happening to you and hope you are able to reestablish your relationship with your sister. If not, you know you tried! ;-)

Kris, in New England said...

I am in the process of reconciling with my brother after a nearly 10 year estrangement.

And it's only happening because the rest of my family suddenly decided last year that I am a hateful bitch who never loved them.

My brother left my family 10 years ago and never told anyone why. I am now learning that they did roughly the same thing to him all those years ago - I just never knew it.

It's a painful thing - even if it's been along time.