Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PYHO: Sisterly love

My sister-older than me by 4 years- and I, are survivors. We have survived the tumultuous stages of sisterhood and life that threatened to break us apart forever. Sounds melodramatic? Maybe, but it's true. Four years doesn't sound like much, except for when you break down the age differences like this:

Erin at 11: puberty, middle school, braces, pimples, figuring out boys, training bras, body image.
Me, then at 7: roller skates, Barbies, chapter books, playing pretend and figuring out multiplication tables.

Erin at 15: high school, a hierarchy of mean girls, figuring out boys, hormones, the rag, car envy, school pressure, pimples, body image.

Me, then at 11: See above list.

Erin at 18: college stress, school pressures, hormones, saying good bye to high school friends, figuring out boys, dealing with a little sister attending the same high school as her and praying I didn't embarrass her, body image.

Me, then at 14: See above list for Erin at 15, and add on: trying to become friends with her big sister, the sadness of losing her big sister to college, trying to figure out not just boys, but older boys in high school, and living up to the legacy my big sister had left in terms of academics.

Our relationship has run the gauntlet. Our path to becoming the besties that were are now was rife with fights. We would beat each other up, face slapping, chair throwing, hair pulling, punching over a variety of triggers. I constantly borrowed her things without asking. I pestered her, wanting time and attention from her. I made fun of her looks,(mostly because she was the slim one with fine, manageable hair while I was the "curvy" one who had hips, boobs, and a belly by the time I hit fifth grade. We won't even detail my lifelong battle with the red, curly/wavy/frizzy hair my father bequethed me. Thanks a heap, Dad.) I used my sense of humor to make her the butt of my jokes, and she used her brilliant mind and razor sharp tongue to slice my self esteem to bits. We knew each other's weaknesses and insecurities and used them against each other.

Then I hit eighth grade, and Erin was then in high school. The world we lived in tumbled down around us: our younger brother was sick, needing a heart transplant at the age of nine. This required our parents to take him to Boston Children's hospital, where the three of them stayed for three months while various family members stayed with Erin and I in South Carolina. Those months didn't automatically change our relationship, but it did begin to shift, to something less bitter, something less adversarial. The revolving door of family members (as blessed as we were to have them there to take care of us) united us. We were partners, and I can't speak for her, but I clung to the fact that at least the two of us were together, even if the rest of our family was torn apart by geography and circumstances.

I started trying to use my sense of humor to make her laugh, instead of make her cry. Out of all of my best friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors who all had sympathy for the fear we were facing over our brother's health, only Erin truly understood, because she was in it with me. Each day that passed by, waiting for news, missing our parents, worrying about our brother, she was in it with me. Wishing for a new heart for our brother meant that someone else's child had to die. What a confusing time for two adolescent girls, wishing for our brother's recovery, yet knowing what it would mean for another family. Feeling guilty if you laughed at a friend's joke, or went to the mall, because our brother was in a hospital bed hooked up to monitors, his body barely able to keep functioning. I don't remember Erin and I talking much about the situation, expressing our feelings outright to each other then; that wasn't really our family's style at the time. What I do remember is drawing comfort from my older sister, seeing the worry etched on her face, in the posture of her shoulders, and feeling more connected to her because of it.

Our family emerged from that health crisis with scarred hearts and spirits, but thankful and triumphant. My brother's scars are visible- one long, red scar where his chest was cracked open and a new heart was placed. I think Erin and I also had "heart" transplants of our own. Our scars were invisible, but we were forced us to crack open our minds and bodies, taking out the old, malfunctioning, ugly hearts and mindsets we had towards each other, and replace them with a sisterly love and appreciation that continues to grow.

Today is my sister's birthday. I am Pouring My Heart Out in honor of her. I am so grateful to have her as my best friend. Since that difficult time in our family's life, we have spent countless hours on the phone, talking, laughing, crying. Erin knows me inside and out, and loves me anyway. She lets me be myself, neurotic, joke telling, foul mouthed, Super Mommy and Super Catholic wannabe, without fear of reproach or judgment. She keeps me sane, keeps me accountable, keeps my feet on the ground while my anxiety meter skyrockets upward. We have grown into adults, into women, into wives and mothers, celebrating the various seasons of life together. I love my sister more than words can say, and will be grateful for her friendship and love for the rest of my days.


  1. I'm so glad that the two of you had each other through all of this!

  2. DUDE - You KNOW that I am about to be on the "rag" and there you go making me CRY. C'mon now girl!

    Just kidding - love you!!

  3. Also, you need to turn off the word verification on comments please and thank you!

  4. Sisters are the best! This had me in tears. My neice received her new heart last July and through the months of hospitalization our family grew closer and stronger. I'm grateful everyday for my sisters!

  5. Sister are something special! I like how you painted an all too familar picture with the age differnces. My sister and I are 6 years apart. Glad you both have each other. No matter what-you always will! ;) Stopped by from Shell's.