Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ah, Sisters ... Part 1

While we were growing up, my older sister was not unlike Casey Anthony. She lied about everything and was promiscuous, or at least highly sexually active, but denied it. I walked in on her orally servicing her high school sweetheart, and later she told me to my face that never happened. She worked very hard to come between our mother and our grandmother. She told our mutual friends, acquaintances and relatives lies about me and insisted they choose between us. She also beat me regularly until I moved out.

She hit my mother once and we all ended up in family therapy. It was there I learned that she had been a high-maintenance baby -- which was hardly her fault -- who needed a great deal of my mother's attention. When I came along when she was little over a year old -- which was hardly my fault -- she never learned how to handle it. Consequently, her relationship with my mother has always been complicated. For decades I have dealt with all of this by withdrawing. She alternately reaches out to my mother and then punishes her, a painful dance they have been doing since before I was born, I guess, and it confuses me so I stay away. Plus, since my older sister meant me harm, I avoided her. I needed to protect myself.

With my mother's advancing years and medical problems, I have become more receptive to my older sister's overtures of friendship. She wants her new husband to think that we're like a Norman Rockwell portrait and it would make my mother happy if we got along better, so what the hell. I've grown into a strong, self-sufficient middle-aged woman -- I simply won't allow my older sister to hurt me anymore. And if agreeing to see her for dinner once or twice a year when she's in town will make her and my mother so happy -- and if her husband will pay for my steak -- it seems like a small sacrifice.

My mother has told both my sisters about my cyst and upcoming surgery. There's a possibility that I have ovarian cancer. I don't like saying this, but it's true. It's more likely that I don't have it, especially since the CA-125 blood test came back negative, but it's there. And it's hard for me NOT to take it seriously since both my friends Ed (prostate cancer) and Kathleen (breast cancer) were told that the odds were great that they didn't have cancer and well, guess what. I have been honest with my mother because I don't want her to feel sucker punched if the worst comes to pass. In turn, she has told all this to my sisters because she needs to talk it through with someone.

My older sister has been a shock. She sent me an email saying she loves me. (Really? In my whole life, she has never said such a thing.) She is sending her 21-year-old daughter to stay with my mom while I'm in the hospital and recuperating because (1) I'll need help and someone to drive and (2) my mom will love having the company. Also, her daughter wants to come to Chicagoland to see everyone.

Still, it amazes me. My older sister is being so sensitive to my mother's concerns, her daughter's sense of loneliness and isolation and my condition. It's so unlike her. I can't put too fine a point on how not like her this is.

I don't trust it. I can't, really. I feel too vulnerable with all that's going on inside my own body to deal with any more. But it would be nice to believe that my older sister has actually evolved and become a happier, more decent person at this stage in her life.


  1. maybe her mood swing is caused by menopause haha
    yep families can be a harse pain to the rear...
    hang in there honey and take any help you can get!

  2. It would be good to know that you can lean on someone and not deal with even more stress than you're going through. I say take it when you can get it.


  3. It's hard to take it for what it is when it comes from a toxic source. Ah, the sister dance...

  4. I'm with Mimi - take it where you can and be in gratitude. This health challenge has really brought out so much wonderful love from others that you might not have seen otherwise. This, too, is a gift. Doesn't mean you have to let your guard down - just means accept it and say thank you. (I know you are and will.)


  5. I'll just hope that everything turns out well. It's off to a good start.