In Her Shoes dredged up a lot of feelings and thoughts that I wanted to include in my last post but didn't... Be prepared for some ramblings....
Growing up my sister and I were close. We played together, we fought together, we laughed together and even cried together. When she was around 2 or 3 she came down with Encephalitis. Its an inflamation of the brain. People usually come out of one of two ways; a vegetable or not at all. She defied the odds and was fine, the only draw back was that she had to relearn everything. One of my earliest memories was visiting her in the hospital and teaching her how to crawl again. Our home was out in the boonies, surrounded by trees. Our neighbors had a boy my age and a daughter a few years older than me. The rest (and believe me there weren't many at all!) were either way older or younger and boys! (and didn't move into the neighborhood until we were almost out of elem. school). So, for a good portion of our lives we were all the other one had. (My mind races at some of the crazy things we did to amuse ourselves) It was never a problem, its just the way things were. My dad said that my first day of kindergarten I exclaimed that I was "off to check things out for my sister." My sister would echo the same sentiment.
This went on for many years, with me checking things out for my little sister. It started to become a problem during high school, with the approaching dating and driving age. She had trouble understanding that since I was two years older than she was, I got to do things before she did. She seemed to be in such a hurry to do things. I had my first real steady boyfriend during my senior year, and I know that there was some resentment because of it. There was a part of her that felt that she was ugly, that she had no friends and that there weren't any boys that were interested in her. I think when I left for college things got worse. For the first time in our lives we weren't living in the same house. I was off at school with my new friends and when I was home, I was playing catch up with my old friends. She told me she would tear up during No Doubt's "Don't speak" because of the line "if feels like I'm losing my best friend.." Still rips me apart! She got to her senior year and began clinging to the "few" friends that she felt she had. But somewhere during this year, the "ugly duckling" began to turn into a swan. She finally found herself getting attention from boys and not quite mature enough to handle it.
School was never easy for her. She really had to work at things to get barely passing grades. She had some special classes and A LOT of anxiety before a test. She would know the material, but once presented in a "test" format she'd freak and do horribly. I think she felt the need to compare herself to me and how I did in school. I was no brain child, but did manage to make the honor roll almost every semester and was enrolled in honor classes. School was never difficult for me, but I didn't breeze though it like others. My parents tried to praise her for her efforts and made it clear how excited they were when she did well. But I still don't think that stopped the need she felt to compare herself to me.
After graduation she started attending the local community college. Things started getting a little rougher for her living at home, working and going to school. Right after Christmas she decided, enough was enough and moved out in the middle of the night.. without telling anyone. She cut herself off from us completely. We would hear from friends and family that they had seen her here or there. We knew where she was living, but she wouldn't talk to us or contact us at all. I was hurt, deeply hurt. More hurt than she'll ever know. I had quite a few dreams about her where I would wake up bawling. It hit me the hardest when our dog died. Andy attached himself to her from day one. He was an older dog that we rescued from the humane society. He was to be put down the day that we rescued him. I think that he knew that we saved him and was a great dog; fully trained and eager to please. Burying Andy was hard. She didn't see the grief in our parents' eyes and faces. She didn't hear dad collapse over his body and exclaim that he felt like he was burying her. I tried so hard to get a hold of her to tell her that he had died, but she wouldn't return my phone calls, or if she even got them, I still don't know to this day.
I think the silence went on for almost 3 years. It was even hard going to a funeral for a third cousin and seeing her, and not having her come up to me. To see her sitting with this other girl who she was living with. Just because we didn't hear from her, everyone else let us know what she was up to. Our town and the neighboring town were she was living are both small towns. Plently of people would run into her or she'd go and visit other family members- just not us, they would in turn keep us up to date. Most of it was stuff that we really didn't want to know about. At one point, she stopped to visit our great aunt one evening and asked to spend the night. My great aunt could tell that something wasn't right with her. She called my parents the next morning to let them know that she was there. They stopped by on their way to help me move and low and behold, she talked with them and agreed to come with them to help me move. She must have hit pretty low because shortly after that she moved back home and made an attempt to get herself back on track.
My roommates and I had a great time that summer, we had a party every Thursday night. I wanted to reach out to my sister and try to get back to the closeness that we once shared, so I invited her down to visit to enjoy one of our parties. I made it quite clear to my (MALE) friends that she was off limits. I gave them the short version of what she had been through and tried to make them understand that she didn't need to deal with any more drama. As the night progressed she got more and more and more trashed. She ended up disappearing with a guy I had hooked up with the week before. To be honest, it really doesn't matter that it was the same guy, I would have been just as upset if it was anyone of the guys that had shown up. There really wasn't anything between me and this guy, we had been friends for that summer, and the semester before and I thought that he understood where I stood on the "don't touch my sister" issue. I felt betrayed, and not because I was interested in him (because it wasn't even that- it was more of a "he's drunk, I'm drunk, we don't have anything better to do.."), it was more that he didn't respect my wishes that my sister had been through a lot and didn't need to be messing around with more guys who were just after her body. But anyways, that night created a huge divide among the people that I was hanging out with that summer. To be honest, I haven't spoken to them since then. It really is a shame because we had a hell of a summer! The part that amuses me is that she has no idea what a strain that caused in those relationships. I tried explaining it to her recently and she barely even remembered that night. Funny, as how it sticks out quite clearly in my mind.
A few years later, she started dating this guy she had just met. Next thing we know, she's moved in with him- in his trailer. A few more months down the road, on her 21st birthday she marries the guy. I was on my way to visit and take her out for a drink for her birthday. She stopped by before I could arrive and announced "I'm married, aren't you proud?" They got married in the courthouse with no family present. She only bothered to stop by my parents so that she could get her birth certificate because he was leaving for Navy bootcamp the next day. I made a detour in my way home and stopped at the liqour store so that we (as in Dad, Mom and I) could "celebrate." Let me tell you, what great fun to get shitty ass drunk with your parents as you cry about how she hurt us once again by not including us. While her dear sweet hubby was in boot camp, she moved in with his parents- in their trailer (still don't get that one!). The whole family was hurt at her selfishness. Her hubby never quite made an effort to get to know us, I didn't even meet him until they were married for almost a year. His family never made an effort to get to know us, they were names that we heard from her. When he was in boot camp, we did begin to hear from her on a more regular basis. He finished his training, and they were stationed in VA Beach (about 5 hours away). We never got any real invitation to come visit until he was stationed overseas. That seemed to be the only time we'd hear from her- when he wasn't around, or when things were going wrong.
They seemed to have differing thoughts on marriage- he thought that he now had a maid, a cook, a housekeeper and a whore, she thought that she had gotten a husband. What innocence! I have tried my best to listen and support without telling her to leave his sorry ass. I knew that if she ever decided to leave him, that it would have to be her decision. She decided after almost 3 year of marriage that she was going to get a divorce from jackass. She has said similar things in the past when she was upset, but I could tell that this time she really ment it. Then the fun of dealing with the proper procedures came through. The two of them decided that they would get 1 lawyer to write up the separation papers. Mom and I begged (and offered to help pay) for her to get a lawyer. She told me point blank "I'm a big girl, I can do this." (Did I mention that they had 4 vechicles and that her name was on every single loan, but not on any of the titles??? This is the kind of person that we're dealing with!) I was so frustrated with her that I hung up, deep down knowing that he was going to take advantage of her. But there wasn't anything I could/can do. She made this decision on her own.
I'm still having trouble trying to let go. But its hard to distance myself from her emotionally, she's my little sister. I can't just sit by watching her hurt herself and not do anything. I think that this would be the reason that In Her Shoes really hit home with me. I've been there to see my sister go through hard times, I know the frustration of wanting to help but knowing that the help won't be appreciated. Of getting to the point where there really isn't anything you can do. Learning to let go, but still being there for her is difficult. My boyfriend says "screw her" but I can't. Unless someone has had to take the "protective older sister role" they really don't understand.
And if you made it to the end of this post, congraulations! I really didn't mean to ramble on so much, it all just bubbled right out.