When we were growing up, well, frankly, she didn't have much to do with me. She had her own friends and her own interests. By the time I got to elementary school, she was already in junior high school. By the time I got to high school, she had gone off to college.
She tells me she used to babysit for me and my other sister (and by her account, we were both a pain in the neck!), but I don't remember that. I just remember her as this older girl with long dark hair and a big white smile, who loved Joan Baez and thought she was a Beatnik (even though we grew up in a lily white suburb).
Our family of six usually did have dinner together -- the one time of day when everyone got together. But even then, she sat across the table, and down one. We never talked directly to each other, one on one. We never played together; never did anything together except on the rare occasion of a family outing -- which usually meant driving up to my grandmother's house for a holiday.
By the time I graduated from high school, my sister was living in a New York City tenement and working and going to graduate school. Then she got married and moved to Virginia, then Tennessee. She got divorced and moved to Florida, where she eventually remarried and where she's now been living for the past 30 years. During this period, I'd see her about once every two or three years, for Christmas or a birthday at our parents' house.
My parents eventually retired to Florida. I would occasionally go down to visit them, but still I hardly ever saw my sister. She lived in northern Florida; my folks had moved to South Florida; and we rarely visited my parents at the same time.
My mom died in 2000. My dad was all alone, and before long he got sick. Coincidentally, about that same time, I was laid off from my job. So I now had time to go visit my dad in Florida and help him out. Every time I went to see him, my sister and her husband were there, taking care of his affairs, arranging medical tests and office visits, offering support and comfort. While I was there, my dad worried that he was a burden on us, didn't want to be a big problem in our lives. He insisted my sister take a break and go shopping; he arranged for my brother-in-law and I go play golf together.
My dad was 90 by then, and he didn't last long. But during those few months, I spent more time with my sister than I had in all the time growing up as a child. I'd barely met her first husband, but spent a fair amount of time with her second husband. Later, when I drove down to Florida to help dispose of my parents' effects, and cart home a few family mementos, I stayed overnight with my sister on the way to my parents' house, and then again on the way home.
|My older sister, in the middle, circa 1962|
In short, we've become the friends as older adults that we never were as children. Recently, she even friended me on Facebook!
I wouldn't say we're close; she still lives a thousand miles away and has her own life, as I have mine. But it's nice to reconnect with your family, after all these years.
And I wonder, is this typical, have others had the same experience . . . of losing touch, then reconnecting?