We loved dad something fierce but my big sister, only two and a half years older than me became even more important in my life then. She was hurt as much, if not more than me. But with mom gone, I felt alone and she felt she needed to protect me. I didn't want to add to Dad's pain and my sister said we needed to help Dad so she was my confidante for what I was feeling and going through.
As time went by, she became, in my mind at times, a sorta surrogate mom, I went to her when I was hurting. And yet we competed for Dad's attention. Having lost Mom we were scared of losing our father too. We knew if Mom had walked away from us, it was possible Dad would fall out of love with us too. We use to talk about this as kids in our rooms and I would bawl and Terri would assure me she would always be there for me regardless and hold me. As a child, it is never quite understood. Dad told us things about our mother's parenting skills but who really gets that or wants to think poorly of a parent. And we internalizes those issues. Part of us even blamed him at times.
Dad needed a caretaker for us, to replace our mother so he hired an old lady to be our nanny, Mrs. Train. She lived with us except for one
We were the joke and the object of curiosity. It was heart-wrenching. As we were trying to get adjusted to the change, we walked outside and were confronted with mean screams. There were even calls to the house with neighbor kids yelling things at us. We had hang-up calls, with even our house-keeper getting them. She, at times, would take the phone off the hook.
neighborhood.She would seek me out if I was hiding in the woods behind the Coffee's house till the chanting would stop. She would answer the calls and yell bad things back. She would even punch them if they touched me. It became common knowledge, if you mess with me, you mess with my big sister.
We wanted our dad to love us more so he wouldn’t leave so we tried to please him even harder. We use to talk about how we needed to not get Dad mad at us so he stayed loving us . Terri was my coach on how to do this and reinforced what I was doing well to please him. Oh yes, we fought, more so to win his attention! I think he knew some of our frustration because when he began dating, he tried to include us on some of his dates, once he was dating a woman for a while. It made us love our dad even more; our dad was truly our hero.
When they were married, we had to say good-bye to Mrs. Train. A nanny was no longer needed with a new step-mother in the house. But, the nanny was someone we had been living with for years. We had spent more time with her than our father for several years now. And we had grown to love her and be somewhat nurturing to us. And now, she was leaving. It opened a raw wound in my sister and I reminding us no matter who we loved they would leave. We realized stability of love was never going to be a part of our childhood other than each other. We cried and were quite heart-broken and were assured we'd see her again. Yet, we never did.
This made us feel like we were the outsiders in our home, particularly when our dad moved us and our newly formed family to a new home. We called her mom but always felt a sense we were forced on her. If our own mother didn’t love us, why would she? And we rebelled against her too, in ways. And she quickly became pregnant with a baby. That baby was their child and from then on, it was clear we were second-rate children, not the preferred.
Terri began on a path of more rebellion than me, being the older of the two of us, particularly when the new son was born. Dad pulled us aside and told us if troubles continued we would both have to be sent away to a boarding school.
There it was, the rejection we both knew was coming. It had only been a matter of time. I hated my sister, she had assured me we would not get left again, not by our Dad if we were good. There we sat, after he left the room, his new bedroom, not saying a word for a few minutes. My sister Terri spoke first. As she spoke, tears rolled down my face. I can't remember a single thing she said because my heart was crushed. I hated her at that moment and a piece of me hated her for years and years. I felt she had lied to me. I trusted her. But I still hung on to her, when we weren't fighting. I still shared secrets of my feelings and thoughts with her and let her share hers with me. No one understood me better, those deep feelings of being rejected better than her or me her feelings than I.
My older sister continued to let me tag along with her friends. I was insecure more than ever now. One minute Terri and I fought like cats and dogs, furiously, taking out all our frustration on each other. Then, the next minute, she was defending me. In so many ways, back then, and still today, we are as different as day and night. In other ways, the similarities between my sister Terri and I are tenfold as we age. We both took different paths. In other ways, are lives played out not so differently. We both went through divorces, proving the cycle of dysfunctional marriage continues in generations but we never followed our mother's choice of leaving our children no matter how bad things got in our homes. We have had years of distance in our relationship but have maintained contact with each other of some sort our entire lives. One of us has children that are incredibly close to their mom and one has children that are not, some of the children have had marriages that have also ended in divorce much like ours and none of our children are close to each other or close to either of us, their aunts. But inspite of that, having no real family even now, either of us, we have found a way to hang on to the thread of our relationship.
After Mother’s Day, I realized this must be written to share. Don't take vital relationships in your life for granted. That single one that has been always there, it may be a heaven sent one. My relationship with my sister may not be perfect, but I saw something that served as a reminder I am not a part of a family now either, not included, invited, acknowledged. My life means not much of anything to most loosely related to me. But to my sister, I am everything! What I thought I was searching for was something I have always had, a sister. A family can be as simple as one person, someone who unconditionally loves you and is willing to go the distance with you. My dream came true, just not like I expected it too, and so did Terri's.
Instead of feeling sad or lonely, indeed now I feel blessed. I was always whole and just didn't see it, I didn't feel it inside. And our connection, our bond, Terri and I was part of that wholeness, that family feeling. It was, is a love of acceptance, of our differences, our imperfections and our memories, good and bad, our fights, and our dreams, hopes and realities. It is not a thing of sadness to me but a thing of joy, of God’s blessing. My father did give me the greatest gift of all, a sister that loves me through it all with open arms and heart.
May those of you that experience divorce realize that when families split apart, no matter whether it is from divorce or other reasons, many will chose sides and alienate you. Do not let that indicate to you that you are less whole. You are still complete, just walking a new journey. There is usually at least one person who will always remain true to you, gravitate towards them and don't lose touch. Don’t allow yourself to continue to be hurt, judged or feel like an outcast. You can't garnish internal strength, confidence and self-love if surrounded by doubters of you.
The Lord is always watching over you, become stronger with hardship. Know God has better plans. Know it is never really completely quiet…
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