Sister Stuff

SayingThisDayMy kid sister is 80 tomorrow and she hasn’t changed much. She’ll never catch up, but she’ll always keep trying! Ever since she arrived on Planet Earth, there’s been this contest about who’s the prettiest, who’s the smartest, and who’s the best. It continues!

Know what she did? She hit par on her golf course yesterday! She plays on a short course every Tuesday for at least the last fifteen years and her garage is full of trophies. She earned them when she was in her 60’s and 70’s. Wasn’t that enough for her? Did she really have to show me up by gaining more accolades at 80?

I guess she thinks I’ll throw in the towel now and admit she’s the best. We’ve been locked in this horrendous competition for at least 80 years and it may finally be coming to an end. I feel like giving up and saying, “You win”. Of course, I never will.

I could say, “I never thought it would come to this, and I’m sure you cheated, but I guess you win – at least for a little while.”

Maybe if I sound really, really depressed she’ll bake me a pie or something. Or maybe she’ll faint and then I’ll feel guilty. On second thought, I may have to admit she’s a better golfer but I don’t have to say, “You win.” I’ll just think of something else we can compete over. Maybe crosswords?

We weren’t born competitors, it was early childhood training that made us that way. When we were kids, people were absolutely determined to judge us.

We didn’t look anything alike but my grandmother made us identical dresses out of identical flour sacks. People asked if we were twins and when they heard no, they were compelled to pronounce who was the prettiest. Her dark hair and blue eyes usually won.She even had a few curls while my hair looked lank – like those Okies in the Dorthea Lang photos of the Dust Bowl.

I won the smart contest, probably because I was a grade ahead of her in school. Finally, in High School, some counselor called my sister aside and told her that her IQ was only three points lower than mine, but I don’t think either of us really believed it until much later when she ended up with so much more money.

Actually we were both pretty and we were both smart. Sometimes we were also in the same grade because Los Angeles Schools had half year promotions. She skipped into my class and then I skipped ahead. It happened more than once because I couldn’t stand having my little sister in my class. As a result of this skipping ahead race, we both graduated from high school two years earlier than normal. We were 16.

We fought and argued as small girls but we declared a truce when we started school because we really needed to be best friends. As children, we moved a lot and it was very handy to bring your best friend with you.

One reason we got along so well is that we divided things up. We shared a room until I got married at 18. After my child was born, I moved back home and we three shared a room again. Some things never change. Her side was neater..

My sister was very neat while I would have lived anywhere and never noticed. She ironed her clothes and shined her shoes before she went to school. I wore the same old gray glen plaid skirt and a wrinkled blouse.

As adults, she took the Martha role and I played Mary. Or was it the other way around? I’m not sure how that story goes but I do know she had one husband, three kids,and two homes throughout her adult life. She was basically a housewife and mother.

I, on the other hand, had two husbands and some extra men, only one kid, moved around a lot, taught school, wrote books and started a church.

We grew up in a time when women’s roles were changing drastically. We didn’t have much money or many advantages and in our own ways, we both did well. I was a “career woman” while she was a “wife and mother”. We really didn’t  envy each other much because we knew we’d made choices that suited us.

Sometimes we didn’t understand each other’s choices and there were times when we quarreled about what the other one should do. Mostly, we just lived parallel lives and didn’t compete.

There were times when I thought my life was better because her life looked boring. I fear I was rather condescending when I was out in the big world and she was home taking care of three active sons and a coaching Little League obsessed husband.

As the years progressed, I was very grateful to her for her steadfast nature. She became the center of our family vortex during the years when my mother and father aged. I was gallivanting all over the place, learning to “express myself” while she was keeping the home fires burning, taking care of others.

With sobriety and maturity I came to see how unselfish and helpful my sister’s choices were. She is a true caretaker and a wonderful person. She says she’s not religious yet she lives her life immersed in Love.

These days, she is still my best friend. We talk on the phone every day and see each other when we can. We are both fortunate because our mother taught us not to dwell on the past, but to look to the present so our conversation is about daily events. I know quite a bit about her “golf ladies” and she knows quite a bit about my “church ladies.”

She’s proud of me for all I’ve accomplished and I honor her for all she’s accomplished as well. We still try not to compete but we can’t help comparing from time to time. She says I get around more than she does, even though I’m in a wheelchair and that gives me a brownie point, I suppose. I say she’s the best golfer I know in her age bracket and that gives her two brownie points at least.

I’m so grateful to have a best friend like my sister. Happy Birthday, Anne!

Ask Yourself

Do you have relationships you cherish?

What would you like to tell those people today?


5 Comments on “Sister Stuff”

  1. Andy Turenne says:

    Hi Jane,
    Loved your post, thank you for sharing.
    I am coming up on 73 and all of my sisters are in their 80s. I am second to last in my very large family and I have a baby brother of 70. I invited my sisters out to California for my retirement and they all came.from back east. I’m a pretty active guy and keep myself in pretty good shape. My sisters ran me ragged for two weeks, Napa, Tahoe, the mountains, the redwoods. They had to do it all. Then when we would “retire” for the evening they were ready to play cards. I love them all and they truly inspire me. One of my sisters returned for another visit just a couple of months ago and we had such a good time together. I cherish them so very much and my wife and I look forward to returning the visit when we go back east perhaps next year.

  2. david sheive says:

    That is a good story to share, Dr.Jane!!!  Our generation did have unique childhoods – all of us.  Mine could have ruined me – but, it didn’t!  It did ruin my sister.  I have looked at all of that over the years and I do believe that what was born inside of me gave me the “raw material” to grow and prosper both inside and outside myself no matter what.  None of my success or joy came from somewhere outside of myself.  I brought it to me from what was inside of myself.   Thus — I found Science of Mind such a joyous discovery!   Yes, Ellen, you too can still have a “church home” – in spite of or because of your inner knowings and beliefs.    Today, one of my greatest joys is watching all my grandchildren grow up loving, liking, supporting and enjoying each other all the time.  I used to wish I had that in my childhood – no longer – since I embrace my 2nd chance to be part of that kind of energy and spirit as the Grandma.

  3. Judee Chapman says:

    Dear Dr. Jane, Mom and I are here at her cabin at Lake Almanor for a month and just read your article on “Sister Stuff.” It was wonderful!~!!! We laughed and cried at the same time.
    Mom turned 90 in June and is doing so very well. We love you and thank you for all your wisdom and inspirations!
    Love Judee

  4. Jane Pool says:

    I am happy for you that you still have a sister with whom to share current events as well as memories. Being the youngest of 7 I have lost all three of my brothers and their wives and 2 of my three sisters and their husbands, plus the husband of my one remaining sister and she now has some form of dementia so in effect is not here either.. Although I enjoy living in the present it is sad to have no family remaining with whom to laugh over old, good times. After all my life being, “the baby of the family” I now have the role of matriarch. I suppose that has a certain pride of position but it is not nearly as much fun as being the baby! Still, life is good and there is lots of love to share with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – and a lifetime of accumulated friends.

  5. alenealene says:

    Dearest Dr. Jane,
    How wonderful you have a sister, a best friend. I always wished I had one – twas not to be however. Happy birthday to both of you for one would not be who you are without the other.
    Lot’s of live and gratitude.

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