My Sister is two years younger than I am. I admit that we fought like the proverbial cats and dogs while we lived at home with our parents. I still bear the scar on my left hand, where she dug in her fingernail. When we were at home with a babysitter, she was the trouble-maker, while I got blamed (you’re older, you should know better).
When we got a little older, she was the popular one, while I shut myself up in my room with a book. She had lots of friends; I didn’t. In college, she was the “sorority chick”, and I was the “black sheep” who lived in the dorm and mostly studied. I envied her, with all her friends and boyfriends. While I was away at college across the state, our mother spent a few months in Israel, so Sister lived at home with Dad and they had a great time.
Sister mostly knew what she wanted to be when she grew up, and did so with alacrity. I didn’t. She worked in increasingly-responsible marketing jobs after college, and eventually started her own small business with a partner. She married the guy who was the helper in her sorority house in college, and they had two children. My brother-in-law was a salesman for a roofing-coating company, and together they did very well. He eventually went to law school, and had a successful career as a personal-injury lawyer.
Sis was the one who took things in hand while our father was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. She helped my mother get through that difficult time, and just always seemed to know just what to do in most circumstances. I was living farther away from the family, so she just took over what was needed. I thanked her for that. She also kept more in touch with the rest of our family, passing on news of births and deaths.
When our mother was in her last years fighting breast cancer, Sis basically took care of her, moving her to the nursing home when she could no longer live at home. At this time, I had just had knee surgery, and was miserable with a case of Coxsackie Virus, which included very painful sores in my mouth so I could not eat or talk for two weeks. Sis just took the situation well in hand, and I was very grateful. Once Mom died, Sis did the basic work of dividing up the estate between us, selling Mom’s condo and doing all the other work needed to wind down an estate, including paying the taxes. I still don’t know how she did it all.
Sis always hosted Passover, Thanksgiving, and Chanukah at her house for many years. Brother-in-law and the kids did a lot of the work, but Sis was the guiding presence. She got very creative with Chanukah Gelt for the kids, and I still marvel at how she came up with papier-mâché figures to hide cash. One year the kids got “cash cows” made of toilet-paper tubes, and one year they got “money-laundering” machines stuffed with bills. In her role as “family-keeper”, she helped set up a little reunion down in Portland, with cousins from as far away as Alaska. This family has a sense of humor. See below.
Sis is, of course, in the middle-this is the “birthday cousins”.
Both of the kids are on their own now, and Nephew is married and a new father. The last couple of years have been difficult, however, as Brother-in-law developed liver disease, and went on a transplant list. Once again, Sister was the rock of the family, shuttling back and forth to the hospital on numerous occasions, and putting on Thanksgiving dinner alone last year (well, not really, since the kids were a big help-I just bring green salad). I have been married twice. Sis was married for 44 years to one guy. I think that is quite remarkable.
My Brother-in-law died last month, and my rock-of-the-family sister is in anguish. I wish I could do more for her, but I’m too far away, and the kids are closer. But I wanted her to know how much I value her as my sister, and appreciate all she has done for our family. We have more in common now than when we were kids, and I just want Sis to know:
I LOVE YOU. And Thank You for being you, holding up the family, and just being there.