My sister and I were 7 years apart in age. We had two brothers – we were staggered boy-girl-boy-girl, and I was the youngest.
Mary and I shared a bedroom up until my oldest brother went off to college, and then again when he was home for the summers. We were not happy roommates. In fact, we couldn’t stand each other. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but Mary was deeply, clinically depressed, probably from a very, very young age. So, what I interpreted as mean, was often really just a byproduct of feeling really, really awful all the time.
Still, she was mean to me. And I probably deserved it more than half the time. For one thing, I was a slob and she was not. So, periodically, she would take everything of mine that was on the floor and throw it all out into a heap in the hallway.
Many years later, when she was grown and gone and I went to visit her, we were watching a TV program where a lady threw out her boyfriend by tossing all of his belongings out of their apartment into the hallway. I said, “That looks familiar.” She looked at me and blinked for a minute, then said, “I used to do that to you, didn’t I?” “Yup,” I replied. “That wasn’t very nice. I’m sorry.” I laughed, well over it by then, but I thought it was sweet of her to apologize after all that time.
Anyway, to return to the growing up years when we didn’t get along… Another example of sibling strife was the two blankets that went on our twin beds. One was pink, and one was yellow. Both were ancient, but we didn’t notice that. We fought over the pink one. We ended up having to take turns with it – one week on her bed, one week on mine.
The overriding feeling I remember during those years rooming with Mary is that of resentment and anger, and not getting along. But when I think about it objectively, I can remember several incidents of her being very kind to me.
For instance, I had a recurring nightmare as a child. I won’t go into it, but I remember one time especially, I woke up shaking and crying from it. Mary let me crawl into bed with her, and she put her arm around me and let me sleep with her the rest of the night. I remember walking to a nearby movie theater with her to see a matinee. And I remember she stuck up for me with our mom when I wanted to ride my bicycle to the 7-11 about a mile away instead of walking. “What’s the big deal?” she asked. She also helped me convince our mom when I wanted to get my ears pierced.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. As a woman, there’s nothing like a sister. There’s absolutely no other relationship that compares. You can fight like cats with your sister, but there’s also no one else who sticks up for you like your sister. No one understands you like your sister. No one shares the memories of your childhood – good or bad – like your sister. And in my case, no one could compare with my sister in any category. She was beautiful inside and out, wise well beyond her years, loyal, honest, and kind.
Once Mary got married and moved away, and we had both grown up some, we became close friends.
Most of my readers know that Mary died of breast cancer almost 17 years ago. She was 36, 10 years younger than I am now. She is frozen in my mind, though, as my older, much wiser sister. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her. I think that is true of everyone in our family, and a whole bunch of people outside our family, too. But I carry her in my heart as the one relationship that she had with no one else in our family but me – sisters. How incredibly, uniquely blessed we both were.
Post Script Note: Last November 6 I wrote a tribute to Mary and posted it to my Facebook page. If you haven’t read it, you can see it on my FB notes, or if you want I will email it to you. I’ve tried not to duplicate too much of it here in this post. The reason I came to write this post is I was reading something my mom wrote about her sister, and I was struck again by the uniqueness of the sister/sister relationship. -ae