Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Women On My Walk #3 - My Sisters
My baby sister is the one I was closest to while we were growing up. We are the closest in age and the two of us comprised the "second family." The difference in our ages is just over two years. My theory has always been that I was an accident and my parents had Jan as a playmate for me. As a teenager I often tried to convince my parents that having her was a mistake. I would have been much happier if they had just left me as the baby of the family. I was only joking ... well, mostly. In all seriousness we grew up very close. We played together as children and we tormented each other as only siblings can do. We were close as teenagers and had most of our friends in common. We did things together and we ran in the same pack. We used to tell people that we were twins. When our dad found out, he made us go back and tell the truth. After our marriages, our lives took different paths. We're not so close now, but we do stay in touch. I miss the closeness we once shared.
My middle sister is multi-handicapped with mental retardation, a severe speech impediment, and is legally blind. The experience of growing up in a household with a sister like Kay is difficult to express and over the years I've given it a lot of thought. I would not wish the experience on anyone, but I believe I am a better person for it. Although she is five years older than me, Kay did not speak or communicate at all until well after I started school. Around the time I entered third grade and for about 15 years after that, Kay lived in one of the Texas State Schools where she received extensive speech and behavioral therapy. She would come home for weekends, holidays, and summers. When she was home she helped with chores like washing dishes and sweeping floors. While we did chores, we would drill her on her speech, helping her to learn proper pronunciation.
About the time Grandad and I married, Mother inexplicably took Kay out of the State School and brought her home to live. Since that time, Kay has regressed some. She can no longer read or write and she is not able to handle her own money. For the past several years, Kay has lived in a group home, first in Corpus Christi and most recently in Seguin. Since Mother's death, Bylinda and I have shared responsibility for her care. While dealing with Kay is sometimes a challenge, she brings a simple joy that is hard for others to understand. Her sense of humor is wicked and pointed and she has the best memory of anyone I know. She's almost like "Rain Man" about certain things. She remembers names and birthdays and is never wrong. She remembers the words to virtually every song she's ever heard. She's a social butterfly at heart and loves to go anywhere, anytime, but she especially loves to be around family. I learned patience and independence at an early age, thanks to Kay. Her love for her family keeps us all connected in a way that we probably wouldn't be without her.
Bylinda was like our second Mom. When we were kids, she kept us all in line. As the oldest girl, Mom had high expectations for her. She was expected to pick up the slack in tending to the younger kids and taking care of the house. I learned a lot of what I am from her. I learned about how women need to help each other and take care of each other from Bylinda. When I was confined to bed during my first pregnancy, she cleaned my house from top to bottom. She always remembers to send cards for special occasions and she is an old-fashioned cook. No one ever leaves her home hungry. She's a font of knowledge about cooking. You can call her for help and advice on any recipe. My kids rarely leave her house without large quantities of food to take home and reheat. She's everyone's "Aunt B" or "Ma Bo." Seriously, some of my friends tell me they wish they had an Aunt B. She goes out of her way to stay in touch with her friends and has several "little old ladies" that she checks on regularly. Her house is the center of activity for friends and family. She throws huge family gatherings with ease and style and always includes friends and neighbors. She's one of the best friends I have.
Over the years we've been competitors, friends, counselors, fashion advisors, and sisters. We are wives, mothers, aunts and friends, but before we were any of those, we were sisters. Having three sisters to walk beside me has definitely made my life better. I had a ready-made, built-in support system before I even knew what a support system was. We tattled on each other, cried on each other's shoulders, borrowed each others clothes, shared recipes, shopped together, and lived together. I regret that my daughter will not have that kind of relationship, but I wouldn't have gone through child birth again, not even to give her a sister.