Sister

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize.  Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks.  Borrow.  Break.  Monopolize the bathroom.  Are always underfoot.  But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there.  Defending you against all comers.Pam Brown

I recently read an amazing little post that got me thinking about sisters. It wasn’t Zoot’s affecting contemplation of summertime fun so much that got me thinking as the simply splendid photos. There’s a young man, a big brother with perhaps better things to do, instead playing with his little sister in the sprinkler. And despite their gap in years, he seems genuinely engaged and truly happy.

I see the same bond between my bookended son and daughter. Ty is an amazing brother. He’s the big kid with his own laptop, a girlfriend, homework in the summer that he keeps putting off, and he’s heading off to high school in just a few short days. He’s busy. But he always makes time to wrestle with his little sister. They share “Ty-die” hugs where she tackles his belly and they fall down giggling. He scratches her back with his long fingers and she melts. He kidnaps her teddy and holds it for ransom. She screams as she smiles. They are as thick as thieves.

She can’t live without him. And if pressed to reply with more than a few syllables, he would probably share the same sentiment. They will never ride the same bus. Never attend the same school at the same time. But I imagine he’d walk on fire to defend her.

I once had a friend named J.B. He and I terrorized our elementary with style. Kindred spirits having fun being kids. But one day he did something to my little sister. The details are sketchy but my response rings true. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and slammed his head into a pole. I then left him sulking in the playground and followed my sister home. The only fight I’ve ever been in and it was to protect my sister.

I have two of them. They are as unique and different as people can be but to me they were always inseparable. A mere ten and a half months apart. Some would say they are only my half sisters. My mom died when I was eleven months old and my dad remarried shortly thereafter. Perhaps you know how this goes. There are suddenly additional grandparents and extended relatives who seem to favor one kid over the other. Presents at Christmastime and birthdays, hugs and kisses and words of praise, are doled out tainted with hints of partiality. They get matching dolls while I get underwear. I get my own bed where they have to share. I remember the tension not so much in detailed words or actions but as an ever-present chill.

It all seems so foolish now. I’m grateful for parents who weathered the circumstances and never neglected to share with us the same laughter. Taught us to lean on one another. And lean they did. Drooling on my shirt as they slept on my shoulder in the car during long road trips. If I sat in the middle I got a double dose. Ewww . . .

In many ways, they grew up in my shadow. Forced to tag along on occasions where they perhaps would have preferred to stay home. I recall a youth group event one Sunday afternoon. I mingled with friends and shared pizza and laughter while they sat alone somewhere out of view and out of mind. And I am haunted by a moment where I failed to protect them. Didn’t put a stop to what I knew was wrong. Where violence came disguised as play and things beyond our childish understanding left scars that will never heal. We talked about this stuff once in a unified recognition of the pain and the damage done. Never has there been a more well-defined turning point in our relationships. These secrets are ours and we bear them together . . .

They share an apartment just a few miles north of where me and mine hang our hats. They visit often. Make the long drive down just to spend a few hours. We eat bratwurst cooked over coals and play Guitar Hero. And they are the best aunties ever. Last summer, while all the older kids went away to camp or spent nights with friends, they invited their youngest niece over for Auntie Camp. They went to the mall. They ate fast food. They played with dolls. They made Zoe feel special.

I’ve not said this enough, so here goes . . . I’m so proud of my sisters and I love beyond words! Kari is a manager for Lowe’s and our go-to gal for all-things Jimmie Johnson. We battle diabetes together, one of the few things we despise having in common. She’s the baby sister who takes me out to lunch between classes and loans me CDs and cash when I need it between paychecks. She puts up with a lot of shit and yet somehow manages to stay the course. She still cries during sappy movies, but as you can imagine that’s alright by me. Cheryl is a teacher at a daycare center. The kids call her Miss Cheryl and respect her. She’s my gaming buddy. And she recently began enjoying reading again. I need to ask her if I can borrow that Twilight book . . . She’s all West Coast Choppers and vampires. She’s got a kickass tattoo . . .

. . . and doesn’t give a hoot what you think about that. She’s got another one on her leg, a beautifully rendered tribute to Shorty, her stubby-legged Chihuahua that was so much more than just a pet. I miss her too. I had the honor of being at the tattoo parlor when she got that one. It was her first tattoo and she was a bit nervous. Being the awesome big brother that I am, I lied and told her it would only sting a bit. In the end, she did better than I did! I’d gotten my first tattoo a few months prior and like to think my bravado in the face of ink-weeping needles inspired her . . .

What do you say to your sisters? Aside from the small stuff? I leave you with this by Dave Matthews . . .

Passing time with you in mind
It’s another quiet night
Feel the ground against my back
Counting stars against the black
Thinking bout another day
Wishing I was far away
Wherever I dreamed I was
You were there with me

Sister, I hear you laugh
My heart fills full up
Keep me please
Sister, when you cry
I feel your tears running down my face
Sister, Sister keep me

I hope you always know it’s true
I would never make it through
You could make the sun go down
Just by walking away
Playing like we used to play
Like it would never go away
I Feel you beating in my chest
I’ll be dead without

Sister, I hear you laugh
My heart fills full up
Keep me please
Sister, when you cry
I feel your tears running down my face
Sister, Sister will you keep me?

Hope you always know it’s true
I would never make it through
You could make the heavens fall
Just by walking away

Sister, I hear you laugh
My heart fills full up
Keep me please
Sister, when you cry
I feel your tears running down my face
Sister, Sister keep me