Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My Sister, Myself

Me on my 3rd b'day with my sister 'A' 1978

When I was a little girl, I couldn't imagine doing anything without my right hand - my big sister 'A'. We'll call her 'A' since I think she'd like some anonymity and having a sibling with a blogging penchant can I imagine be a bit annoying at times, so I carry on much as I started ... as the annoying little sister! With three years in age between us we regularly played catch up with common interests and similarities. I at times accelerated beyond my years and experience to follow her and she in turn would often freeze time, allowing me to join her in her journey at its different phases. We weren't always in sync but we were always entwined, very much a presence in each others lives.

Change is often difficult and I can still clearly remember how painful it was to let go when 'A' left home for university. It was a reminder of those days back in Ghana when I waved her and my other siblings off to boarding school, bracing myself for months of separation at a time ... So painful when it feels like your right hand is being ... well, cut off! I also remember when I met my hubby and how this too brought great change to the dynamic with 'A'. Especially because before this significant other 'appeared on the scene, 'A' had been my friend, my plus one, my big sister, my everything.I have been thinking about my relationship with 'A' a lot recently because I am aware once again of change.

At present I rarely speak to 'A' and this feels strange. We have always found the time before although I admit there have been phases that have been quieter than others. There has been no falling out, there has been no significant event ... it's just the curse of busyness! We are now both busy mothers, she has a demanding job that she juggles alongside being mummy and wife and seemingly we have fallen victim to 'juggling'!!! We are out of the regular habit of being in touch and as a result then you are always playing catch up. If you send a text, part of it doesn't make sense because you didn't know part of the information (which incidentally could be as significant as deciding to change career or discovering a health problem) and in a quick response it is too convoluted to start asking questions. When you do have a window to talk you either have a child hanging off one of your limbs and can either not hear the conversation or concentrate on it or it is seldom and precious time alone that you can't quite surrender knowing that any minute now there will be a child ready to take position once again attaching themselves to one of your body parts.

Had it not been for a conversation that I had with a near stranger recently I probably wouldn't be writing these words. But said near stranger described to me how much she missed her sister who recently passed away. She described details of how they played as children, infamous fights they'd had, times that they had offered each other comfort and support. Funny things they'd said and done and called each other over the years, in essence the 'always thereness' of their relationship. Near stranger's stories took me back to a memory from childhood. When 'A' and I were young, we shared a room and as we were drifting off to sleep, I would often say 'A, if I died would you cry?'. She would always get cross and question why I would ask something so stupid. For years I persisted and when I was around 9 and therefore she was 12, she finally admitted that 'Yes, if I died, she would cry'! This response came with great relief and great satisfaction, she did love me!!! My absence would be noted by her and that's all that I wanted to hear. It's interesting that what was so important to me back then, is still so important now. I look back on those days that I would lie outside 'A's' bedroom door and wait for an opportune moment to have a conversation, with her sometimes ignoring me for what felt like hours and days but what was more likely minutes. I remember specific events, like the time I was flicking a lighter close to her comfy socks in a bid to distract her from her ever present all consuming book when suddenly I was watching was a blue flame climbing over her feet!!! The ignition of the flame was in error and I worked furiously to put those runaway flames out, choking back tears only for her to finally look up at me with a bored look on her face when she picked up on the burnt socks scent!!!!

Sometimes I worry that in the busyness of everyday, that I might not find the right time to tell a loved one that I love them, that I have noticed change, that I care about that noted change, that I have noticed time slipping by and away. I long for my boys to witness the closeness that I experience with my siblings but it's difficult because we so rarely see each other. This is the stuff of life, the stuff of growing up and growing apart, growing and separating into new pods, our own family units. Change for some is exhilarating, exciting, challenging and so forth, I don't believe I am one that sees it quite so. I mourn, I acclimatise, I submit, I accept and finally I embrace change. So, to begin the process today I am mourning. Mourning my childhood, my younger self and perhaps saying farewell to 'being the little sister' after all these years. Perhaps when I finally got round to that catch up chat with 'A' last night, I should have asked one last time 'If I died, would you cry?'.

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