A Sister…And So Much More

I took my sister Dorothy to the Boise airport yesterday.  (big sigh)

She gave me the best gift, the gift of her time.  I can count on my hands the days we’ve had together, just the two of us, since I’ve been married.  Geography has not been our friend.  We always part with the wish that we lived closer.

In order for you to understand, I need to give you a time line.  One Tuesday morning in May my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly (official reason was autoimmune disorder; also suspect was undiagnosed Addison’s disease) leaving a husband and seven kids ranging from age ten (me) to age 21 (Dorothy).  Mom’s funeral was Friday, Sunday was Mother’s Day, and the following Saturday Dorothy got married.  

The newlyweds moved into the bedroom across the hall from mine and Dorothy took upon herself all the domestic responsibilities of keeping a household functioning. She cooked, she washed, she got us headed in the right direction, all the while establishing her own marriage. We laugh now at how Ken had to put a lock on the bedroom door to keep me from migrating to their bed every night.  My father coped with this catastrophe by withdrawal.  Long unexplained absences were the norm.  Dorothy carried an enormous load on her capable shoulders.

It’s a mystery, but somehow oldest kids are wired to take care of the younger ones and youngest kids are wired to be taken care of.  At least that’s how it worked with my sister and me. 

She always had her radio tuned to the station of my needs.

The eleven year gap between our ages evaporated any potential sibling rivalry. She guided me through the maze called adolescence, provided a refuge from a strained stepmother relationship, saw to detail after detail when I got married.  She taught me Mommy 101 via telephone when I had my first son, teaching me not to be concerned with a fever alone, but to call the doctor if the fever was accompanied by another symptom.  Even now, when I’m facing a conundrum with one of my piano students, or wondering which songs to play for a difficult funeral, I call her and draw from her wisdom and experience. 

We’re quite different.  She is a perfectionist and  I tend more towards
comme ci comme ça
.  She’s mechanically oriented; I’m hopeless with machines.  She looks ahead, I go with the flow.  She listens and indulges me while I process life through verbalization.

I look back on our shared misfortunes with gratitude, but also with an ache in my heart.  Who ministers to the ministers?  Who cares for the caregivers?  I can’t imagine what she went through.  Only the Lord could carry all of us through those deep waters.


For there is no friend like a sister

In calm and stormy weather;

To cheer one on the tedious way,

To fetch one if one goes astray,

To lift one if one totters down,

To strengthen whilst one stands.

   ~  Christina Rosetti

Photo: surprise visitor!

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10 thoughts on “A Sister…And So Much More

  1. I’m so glad you had Dorothy to get you through. I am crying and missing my three sisters after reading your beautiful story. Thanks for sharing – and I’m glad you got to visit with her!
    Carrie

  2. What a wonderful, loving sister you have.   It sounds like you both had a wonderful visit.  I’m also so sad when my sis leaves too.  There’s just a loneliness that permeates the house after family leaves.  I can’t explain it though.Debbi(My oldest daughter’s name is Dorothy – I love that name)

  3. aaaawwww, you made me cry, dang it! What a blessing to have a sister like that, and i hope she realizes how blessed she is to have YOU, who appreciates her so much! Sounds like “happy birthday week” wishes are in order, too!

  4. I’m so glad she could come and surprise you – even if the visit was short. 
    Interesting to me your comments about the differences between you. 
     “She is a perfectionist and  I tend more towards comme ci comme ça.  She’s mechanically oriented; I’m hopeless with machines.  She looks ahead, I go with the flow.  She listens and indulges me while I process life through verbalization.”
    Perhaps she became all these things…mechanically oriented, a planner and a listener because of the very things that the Lord walked her through when she was 21.  Perhaps she had to figure out how things worked and fix them – because there wasn’t someone else to do it.  Maybe she had to look ahead and plan for lots of little lives still under her care and learned to plan ahead.  She perhaps learned to listen well because there was probably lots of emotions and thoughts that needed to be listened to after you and your siblings experienced the loss of your mother and then to a certain extent, the loss of your father  in withdrawal.
    And your characteristics remind me of the “nurtured” one.  Even though the losses were great – you had a big sister who took on so much for you.  Maybe you learned to “go with the flow” because things weren’t always as you would have wanted.  Back then, it was hard but you have grown into being able to be flexible as an adult.
    I am having trouble putting into words what is in my mind regarding this but it does paint a beautiful picture.
    The Lord enables us to go through what we have to go through in life.  It is hard for you to imagine all that your sister Dorothy went through.  Yet, the Lord was faithful to her.  We never can truly understand the burdens of others.  The Lord always specifically assigns our burdens to each of us (Psalm 55) and gives each of us the grace to walk.

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