When a sister’s relationship is not exactly Hallmark quality


Ain’t never gonna happen!

I called to rant with my cousin the day that I had the results of  my CT scan. She lets me do that. It means a lot to me. During the course of the conversation, she asked if I had told my sister yet. I replied something to the effect that I really didn’t intend to. Previous encounters in surgery have been met with, “Let me know how things go,” with maybe a follow-up call from her (if any) several weeks or months later checking to make sure everything was ok.

Last summer I spent a few days with “the cousins” including my sister. Even though we shared a room at the inn, when we left the room, the relationship reverted once again to the way it has been all of our lives. I started to say “most of our lives” but I honestly can’t think right now of a single incident when she didn’t make me feel the same way.

I’ve worked out a lot of my feelings towards her and now accept that she is either unwilling or unable to alter our relationship. Since this has been going on for sixty years, why bother now?

In a way, I now pity her. She is the older sister. She feels the burden and responsibility of having a younger sibling. She is there for me when it makes her look good.

Our mother died when she was nine after four very unsettling years dealing with breast cancer in the 40s. I was mainly cared for by an aunt who lived next door. There was never any chance during those first few years to bond, as far as I can ascertain.My father brought me back to the house to live sometime after the funeral but he slept in a room with me while my sister had her own room. I was well past my fourth birthday  before I was out of my crib and into a twin bed when we gave up that bedroom for an aunt who came to live with us.

I understand now as a child I was a pest in my sister’s eyes. I played the game, “I want your attention”, and she played the game “Go away, you bother me.” In kindergarten our housekeeper/babysitter walked me to and from school since it was a half day session. My sister had to walk me home for the next couple of years until she moved on to high school. I always tagged along behind her as she ignored me to the best of my recollection.

I cannot remember her being there at any celebrations at any time in my life, except for my wedding. She hosted the rehearsal buffet in her new family room addition in her home and lovingly sewed the dresses of her two daughters who were in the wedding party. You see all these movies about the bride being the center of attention before the wedding, being helped with everything. That didn’t happen.

She was nowhere around when I had to leave nursing, even when I ended up in the hospital for a full week with complete mental and physical exhaustion with mono, She certainly wasn’t interested in what was happening. She was nowhere around my senior year when I thought I wanted to commit suicide. There was not a word from her when my engagement to my first fiance was broken. etc. etc. etc. When my separation from my husband left me with difficulties with child care that first summer she took my six-year-old son into her home so I could be free to concentrate on my new job. Of course the fact that he was a darling blond-haired little boy like the son that she always wanted helped pave the way. I’m sure a lot of her friends met him that summer.

In seventh grade I received a “caring” letter from her. I guess at that time I was still sharing some of my feelings with someone, I can’t remember. I was having trouble being accepted by a group of girls in my class. I was included in some things, excluded in others. The popular kids were the smartest kids who ran the class. I knew I had leadership abilities and I certainly matched them academically, but they were the “fashionistas” of the 50s. The solution my sister gave me in her letter was perhaps I was aiming too high. She named the sisters of a couple of girls in her class (with whom she never associated) as girls I should possibly start a friendship with. It didn’t matter they lived about three miles away and I had no transportation. It wouldn’t have been easy.

I realized last summer things were still the same. We are too different. I think she ignores me in public because I don’t (and never have) measured up to her level of style. She’s always had thick, easily styled hair which she changes with the fashion. My  hair has always been very thin and fine and really only cooperates with one style. When I wash it and just let it dry naturally, I still look like my first fiance described as a hairy bowling ball.

I have been a yo-yo dieter up and down the scales ever since third grade. She still weighs what she did in high school. She is always up with fashion. I grew up in high school buying my clothes on my own in the bargain basement. Price came first, size second, and any sense of style third. I was constantly wearing things too tight and too old for me. I didn’t feel I deserved anything better.

Whenever we would meet, the first greeting was a full body scan to see if there were anything wrong with my appearance. One Thanksgiving after I was out of college I spent much extra time with how I looked. My clothes fit, my hair cooperated, my make up was fine. I was looking good. My weight was down. As I got out of the car, my nylon ran. Our town was not that large in the 60s. There was nothing open to be able to buy some new panty hose.

I walked into the kitchen where she was bent over the oven checking the turkey. She straightened up, looked at me and her first words of greeting were, “Oh, Annie, you have a run in your stocking.” Happy Thanksgiving, I thought. Status quo.

I came home from last summer after trying one more time to talk with her. I made up my mind to divorce her. I don’t need her attitude in my life any more. It’s been kind of freeing but lonely.

She has for many years been the one to call me. I gave up trying to call her. I would leave messages but it would take weeks or longer for her to call back. I guess in March she realized we hadn’t communicated. She sent me an email and actually said that if she had done anything wrong, she was sorry. I wrote back and reminded her nothing had changed as far as our contacts with each other. She was the one who called me. I told her I had some unresolved issues with her but I preferred not to discuss them over the phone or in an email. I’d rather do it face to face. That makes it several years down the road.

I have no idea what prompted that apology, but it was much too generic. She wrote one other time that she would call me “soon”. That was the middle of April. I am strong enough now not to be addicted to such a toxic environment. There is much more left out of this tale but to include it would take several chapters. She called and we talked which means I say hello and goodbye and she provides about 98% of the conversation in between.

Is there anyone else out there who has similar family stories? I’d like to know. Namaste. Attic Annie

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