When National Siblings Day rolls around my heart strings get pulled a bit. I have always wondered how “only children” feel. They grow up without compatriots with whom they could share childhood escapades and experiences. It is why I had Molly. I wanted Gracie to have someone to share Santa and school, toys and movies, friends, and experiences. I pictured them at each other’s graduations and weddings. All of it. I often said, when breaking up their fights, that they must always maintain love and respect for one another. You will one day be each other’s longest and oldest friend.
So back to those only children, those who grow up in a family of three (or two).
I have a new interest on these children now because although Gracie was not made an only child with the death of Molly, in her day-to-day life that is what she became. Three half siblings, the youngest of whom is fourteen years older than her were never a piece of her day-to-day life. They were more like cousins. We would see them at Christmas and birthdays, and family get togethers.
And then there is me and my sisters.
I grew up with Johanna. Seven years younger than me she was my “baby.” I would pull her out of her crib and sleep with her (much to my mother’s chagrin). When I went off to college, she suffered her “loss” of me greatly. This was a time in her life when she felt a lack of guidance. I never really returned home in any permanent sort of way so she was left to navigate a complicated world on her own.
She did not know how complicated it really was.
I have two other sisters. My biological father was not the one who raised me. I came to know of Martha when I was thirteen but was told to keep my lineage a secret so we did not meet at that time. Martha is just a few years younger than my mother. Around the time my youngest sister Eleanor was born my bio-das finally fessed up about me. At our first meeting I showed her a picture of Jonathan. This connection was also new to her.
A lot to take in.
I have great relationships with these sisters. They came when Molly died, they came when Jack arrived. Eleanor stayed in our house when she came up to visit recently. (We were in Florida). She spent Gracie’s 21st birthday with her at Epcot. It is my hope that she and Gracie will grow closer as they go through life. They share a common reality. They are both only children in day-to-day life with siblings years older (and younger for Gracie) than themselves.
They are only children with distant siblings.
Johanna and I have a good relationship. She is my sidekick. We have timed races together. We have shared weekends and evenings together. She lived with us for a while. She is the very best Auntie there is and has close relationships with Gracie and Jack. Molly loved her.
Martha and I connect in many ways. We are both excellent writers. We have similar takes on social events. We are both family oriented. There is a distance there, though, one that I respect and honor. She lived a long time with out me in her life. I am included in family events but not necessarily invited to family gatherings. I am ok with this. It is not my place to be resentful. I love her.
I had a long-time relationship with Hannah, Eleanor’s mother, and Tom, (my bio-dad) brought Eleanor to visit several times. Molly, Gracie, Kenny, and I visited them as well. Eleanor came to visit in the summer and had Christmas here as well. Now that our Dad is gone, we stay as connected as possible. I love her. Martha and I will be gone long before her, so I take comfort in the fact that she and Gracie will have one another for companionship and family connection.
Gracie also has Caity, her older half-sister on Kenny’s side.
She does not have a day-to-day relationship or connection with her. Caity and I are not on consistently good terms. Gracie is not willing to be put into the middle and forced to make a choice. When her big sister is angry at someone it is typical for her to get everyone on her side. Gracie stays out of that dynamic. When I am gone perhaps, they will have an easier time of it.
Family dynamics are interesting.
We do not choose our families. We are often raised to believe we must love our family and accept their behavior because “family comes first” While there are times that this is true, accepting things like isolation, manipulation and ridicule is never ok. The idea of chosen family has taken hold. Those individuals who are not treated well by family create their own chosen family.
I have several “sisters” I have chosen.
Not because my three sisters are not enough or wonderful, but because my life has sent me down paths that require “sisterhood” in my experiences.
I have Polly.
We have known one another longer than we can recall. We have both answered the phone in the middle of the night and bailed each other out. We have shared sobriety and the opposite if that. We have shared physical illness and set-backs. We have shared loss. We share a love for Baha’u’llah’ and His teachings. She is my anchor in a stormy sea.
I have Lisa.
She is my fierce CrossFit buddy who understands and processes the universe much like I do. She only knows the current version of me so has no sadness or expectations around the Barb I once was. I can tell her anything and she responds without judgement. She is a healer and an empath. Like me, she has a mouth that can get her into trouble. She is beautifully unapologetic about what comes out of it. She is my strength companion.
I have Pam.
We have known of one another longer than we have known each other. Both runners at heart, we met when she added CrossFit into her training routine. The exodus of our friend circle from the gym has brought us close. We are the “old ladies” of the gym now. Like Lisa, Pam can tell me things I need to hear. She is also nonjudgmental and supportive of the me that exists now. We run races together. We are flexible with what the word “run” now represents in our lives. We share humor. She is my keep it real person.
I have Taylor.
A relatively new sister to me, we connected over child loss. We then shared our similar history of physical catastrophe and recovery. She has an entrepreneurial spirit that guides me in my online journey. She loves Jack and is a mom of boys. When the spirit talks to her, she listens. Her flower shop is a favorite stop for Jack. He touches the dirt and the plants and takes in the warmth of her greenhouse. She checks in on me when I need it most. She is my spirit guide.
I am tentative now when it comes to making friends. I am to easily drawn in and manipulated. I can be the poster child for the song from “The Music Man” called “There is a sucker born every minute”. I am learning. I am moving slowly now in my social connections. I watch more with my ears now, and listen with my eyes. I plant my feel firmly in the soil of love and feel where my branches grow. I look for truth in the stillness and leave space to wonder.
Who’s sister am I?