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20 August 2006

We are family

Aadsc05346

This is me and my sisters a year ago -- one of many pictures in a series taken that day.  Sharon and Karen (the twins) are on the left, Ann (the youngest) and me (eldest) on the right.  I obscured and blurred and doctored up the photo a bit because I don't have permission from any of them to post it but I just have to.

Hold on... it might be one of those posts...

Sharon hates having her picture taken, especially in these smile-for-the-camera, obligatory, "let's get a picture" group shots at gatherings.  There must be some terrible picture-taking mojo she holds on to, because the feeling of dread about the eventuality -- or even the possibility -- of a group photo like this can fill her with dread, put her on-guard, and skew her feelings about the whole gathering.  We would have a more recent sister photo from the big get-together in June, but Sharon vanished at the mention of it.  "We just did that on Mother's Day..."

There was grumping when we sat for the photo above.  Apparently needing a big space bubble that day, Sharon didn't want Karen touching her.  Remember one of last year's car commercials with the kids in the back seat and little brother pestering the hell of out of his sister by holding his finger 1/4" from her face, all the while taunting, "I'M NOT TOUCHING YOU, I'M NOT TOUCHING YOU..."?  Well, Annie started to do that to me, and then to Karen -- trying to lighten things up a bit.  It was working.  It worked so well that Sharon started to play along, calling out, "I'M TOUCHING YOU," while grabbing a big handful of Karen's boob.  This is the picture right after that -- where, I'd say, the mood was a tad lighter.

I post it now because we're not all getting along right now; we're not all as close as we've been in the past.  We used to get together a number of times during the year -- just us -- just to hang with each other, enjoy each other's company, do things together.  Lately, we've been getting together secondary to some bigger thing -- a birthday party or something.  It's been quite a while since it was just us -- for a lot of reasons.

It was my dad's birthday on Wednesday.  I called him and we talked and at the end of our conversation he apologized because we ended up talking about family again, specifically (mostly) about the sisters.  He was seriously concerned that there was a rift that might not be mended.  I really think that all those years of our getting together, really working on keeping a connection with each other, even talking about how we never wanted to end up not speaking to each other -- for years and years and takin' it to the grave, as was the case with our grandpa and one of his brothers, as we've seen amongst some of our other relations -- guaranteed that we never would be able to hold a grudge or be angry for too long.  When I talked recently with one of the rifting parties, in one breath it was, "I'm not ready, she said hurtful things" and in the other, "I love her; don't worry, I won't be mad forever."

There's an ebb and flow to all of our relationships, of course; they're fluid.  But we're sisters-as-an-entity as well as sisters individually, and there's a very deep and very strong bond -- one that just is, and one that we've nurtured.  We can go from bitchy-don't-touch-me to boob-grabbing, feet-in-the-air, tears-streaming, side-splitting-laughter in a blink.  We get jealous and angry and mad, we say hurtful things and do hurtful things, we have such different reactions to the same information, and yet we understand each other -- usually.

It's been an intense year for my family and, as the eldest, I feel it keenly -- not that no one else does, certainly, but I think I have a different perspective and even awareness of it all -- what things mean, the motivations, the perceptions and misconceptions, and also because it puts me in an advisory position (from all angles).  Yeah, okay, so all that and then some on top of my regular life -- please, please, please, world, find some balance.  I know that everyone will make up, that we'll have weekends together again -- I hope that it'll happen sooner rather than later.

I'm in a weird place with blogging.  I've had this post brewing in "draft mode" all week -- a little bout with insomnia on a Saturday night/Sunday morning seems like a good time to polish it off and post it.

Comments

I have 4 sisters of my own and know what you're talking about. I'm not the eldest though (middle child here). But it does seem to go in cycles, these familial things. And sometimes they work out all right, hope yours does soon.

Thanks for the lovely post. I have two sister - both live out of state - and it's the same with us.

It's a beautiful post. It seems like we can treat sisters as we can treat no one else. Because deep down we know - they're not going anywhere. For better or worse.

Hugs.

I always wanted a sister but never had one. I did have two brothers and one died when I was 17 and the other died when I was 31. So, I have no siblings and still wish I did. I hope that you all will work through this and I'm betting that you will. But it must be hard for you to be in the middle of it all.

There are six of us but the first 4 have a strange relationship. Being the oldest I usuaslly know what everyone else is doing. I'm the clearing house. One sister is a problem for us all and it keeps things strained.
It's always difficult to balance so many personalities and eventhough you are sisters your view of the family is very different. Hugs as you deal with all the personal problems each sister brings to the mix.

From one oldest to the other - I so hear you sister! The responsibility we heap on ourselves can be overwhelming. I'm not sure if my family expects it from me or I expect if from me. Whereever it comes from I feel it.

My little sister is about to come live with us for a few weeks. The fact that she's 12 years younger than me and 20 years younger than G makes for some odd tensions. Where is she? Why hasn't she called? I want to be the sister, NOT the mother.

Anyway, I couldn't live without my siblings. Like Wendy said, for better or worse, these are the people that know us BEST. Sometimes even better than our spouses because they were there for everything. And it is so interesting how they witnessed and lived the same things so so differently.

I know it hasn't been easy for you. Life can be so fucking hard sometimes! I love you and hope balance comes, in whatever form, very soon. :)

I, too, am the oldest (of 7). The relationships ebb and flow. My mother used to tell us that the one thing that would make her feel as though she had succeeded in life would be for all of us to love one another and get along. Whe she died in 1993, there was animosity along several relational lines. We tried to keep that from her...

The girls (3, from 48-53) all get along. We're each very different but we accommodate one another's quirks. The boys (4, from 41-51) have blood feuds amongst themselves, the dynamics (and participants) of which change from day to day. Those of us not involved usually refuse to discuss it with any of the parties. We remind them of what Mama said and try to soothe the angry waters.

Each of us has already lost friends. I think that makes it easier to provoke the warring parties to truce simply because we're learning that we have no idea the number of our days...

I've had to humble myself several times in order to reopen communications with a sibling, but in the end, it was the best thing to do.

Yeah, life's too short.

Oy, family stuff. It's all very strained on my side of the family, but when I entered my husband's family all I saw were fluffy bubbles and hearts and warmth and love. Now guess what? HIS has turned to the bitter side and mine is all sort of "just there' -- no strong animosities, but there are always walls up. But because ours has always been like that, it somehow seems less negative and less traumatic. My husband is devastated that his family has turned the way it has, and he is the eldest and lives in somewhat denial that his siblings (one in particular) could have become this way.

If my family's lives were boats tied together in a ring on the water, I'd have to say we're experiencing waves too. And a certain sibling of mine is the one causing them.

I see history repeating itself (maybe copying my mothers' estranged relationships with her siblings) and as oldest I am wanting to intervene. Reading your post has maybe inspiried me to "step out on that limb" (wait, that analogy doesn't jive... how about "raise the sails to head towards calmer waters.") (Either that or it could be "walk the plank", depending on the outcome.)

Hubbys brother and nephew aren't talking to us since last September -it really makes me glad I am an only child. They will probably go to the grave not talking to us. Oh well, their loss. And actually since they are both people who are happiest when they are miserable and making others miserable my life is much quieter now. Sorry if I sound negative but last night was a really bad insomnia night for me too and I am exhausted.

hey im an oldest too. of FIVE girls (no men).

and yes there are the ebbs and flows. none of us live in our old home town. two of us live in the same small village (i moved to be near the other one). one in the mid west, one on the west coast and one is moving up to the berkshires, within 2 hr drive from the two of us.

after a year when we lost our uncle, our father (although most of us were estranged from him) and our stepfather, i initiated a monthly conference call (i was working weekends) and we kept it up for a bit over two years (when i left the weekend hours). i really was glad we did it although it was interesting to see the reluctance to participate move from one to the other thru the months and also what issues came up (or didnt). i do miss it tho and wish i could afford to do it again.

I only have one sibling, a younger sister who is alternately my best friend and the bane of my existence. Occasionally both at once.

At 37, somehow I've been thrust into "Matriarch of the family" role with my family and hers (husbands, kids..) and even that small number of us can be exhausting and infuriating and completely joyful in alternating fits and starts.

I also know how difficult it is to be estranged from family members. I speak to my dad just once or twice a year and he only lives 8 miles away from me. He never sees my kids, etc. It's so hard to let go of old wrongs and pain sometimes, and I think everyone deals with that to some extent.

I think as the eldest, we have to learn to let go of some of those feelings of responsibility that we carry upon our (sometimes TOO) capable shoulders. It's MUCH easier said than done, I know.

As usual, I have no good advice but offer hugs and empathy!

And if you really want to laugh, someday I'll tell you about my husband's family. He comes from a clan of 11 volatile, emotional, hilarious Southern Irish Catholic siblings. One needs a flow chart to keep track of who is or isn't getting along at any given time. It's bedlam, but never dull!

I'm in a weird place with my sis right now. I don't feel "close" and feel judged lots of the time. And for someone so sensitive, she is pretty indelicate in her dealings with me. I spend a lot of time holding the lid on my own emotions for the sake of the family...not easy, but then families are not so easy. Sometimes I wish I had more sisters. Sometimes I'm glad I have only one. Such is life.

I hadn't read your site when I called you this morning, that's why I was all about the knitting!

Anyway, just another voice to say I love you! It will all work out in the end - getting to that point will be the dicey part.

I always wanted a sister - even with the fighting part!

I could so match that photo so get ready...
I am one of six, the oldest of four daughters, hard working father, but alcohic. As adults(during our 20's and 30's)we always had alot of fun when the children(nephews, nieces)got together. My family did alot of hosting and enjoyed it. We(husband and three kids) also visited and kept in touch with everyone over the years.
I never thought I'd become estranged from, at the time, from my closest sister(in age and local) esp. after talking about how we would never want that to happen(like my mother and her sister). I was aware of some her major personal issues and I had given her plenty of leeway over the years.
Now in our 40's, guess what? Shit hit the fan and it all came tumbling down. I guess enough was enough and after much hurtful behavior towards me, I said I didn't want to "deal" with her until she could "sort" some things out. Well that was 2 1/2 yrs ago. The kicker is... after discussing it with my Mom, she said,"Oh, I knew I should have said something/ warned you. She has jealous of you for years." Boy did explain a ton of crap! Do I see things differently now. I feel so taken, deceived, betrayed. I can't even be in the same house with her. It has put a tremedous strain on our once harmonious family initially, but now I think the other siblings can see her for what kind of person she really is. We don't really talk about it, that is no one wants to delve into what happened. My family all have their own family and stresses and I guess arn't up for another. I don't think anything will change either.
How do I feel now? Well I must say it's a big relief. I feel she made her choice. Relationships shouldn't be exhaustive. I still see and enjoy my other family members. I'm more aware of how people make me feel and gravatate towards the positive instead of trying to figure out the rest.
Thanks for listening and bringing up a such a touchy subject. I'll sleep great tonight:)!

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