Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dear Sister, I'm Sorry.

Sibling love can blossom early as it did for my boys.  The way they looked at each other – no, saw each other – in that first meeting was magical.  “That’s your brother,” I remember telling Calvin. “Isn’t he cute?”

He nodded.  “I made this.  Here you go, Tyle,” he said leaning over to place a homemade card next to his brother’s tiny, swaddled body.

For Calvin and Kyle it was almost as if they’d known one another before, maybe in a different lifetime; they were connected instantly in that soul-tugging way.  Their first meeting is something I feel so honored to have been able to witness as it deeply affected me and solidified my bond to Kyle knowing he was accepted without question by my firstborn.

The memory I have of meeting my own sibling for the first time is probably my earliest one.  I knew I was going to the hospital to meet my baby sister, and I clutched my dad’s hand as we walked down the endless hallway with green tiled floors.  When I saw my mom in the bed cradling Katy, my heart threatened to leap out of my chest.  Holding a stuffed red dog we bought in the gift shop just moments before, I climbed onto the bed and placed the dog next to her.  When it was time for me to go, I protested.  I did not want to leave her yet, for I just met her.  My dad gave me a ride on his shoulders, and I cried all the way to the car.

Sibling love grows in fields wide and lush where the bottom-feeder weed, the vine that wraps through the field like a snake, is rivalry.  There is something innate, cloaked within the undeniable love that siblings share, about rivalry and the behaviors that come with it.  Rivalry can be helped or exacerbated depending on the parents’ involvement, but it exists in every sibling relationship I’ve ever known, including that of my own boys.

Just as I’m reentering the playroom after peeing in semi-peace, Calvin snatches a matchbox car from Kyle’s pudgy palm, and I hear the roar of one-year-old dissent.  “Give that back to him now, please,” I say.  “You can’t just take a car from Kyle when he is playing with it.”

Calvin gives the car back to his brother, pouting dramatically.

Then this happens which I’m not sure is much better than what happened before, but I’m in shock, so all I can do is stand open-mouthed and watch:

Calvin: “Kyle, can I have that car?”

Calvin answering for Kyle in a high-pitched voice: “Sure!”

Calvin takes the car from Kyle.

Kyle roars once more.

In observing my own boys, seeing the role Calvin plays as the older brother, I have started to understand at a new level some of the pain I caused my own sister.  Most of it we can laugh about now, but some of it cut deep – figuratively and literally.  I have a scar on my hand from my sister.  It involved church camp of all places – a flashlight beam in the eyes, a warning, another flashlight beam in the eyes, the final straw.  Her nails dug into the back of my hand between two veins causing a mark that looks a lot like a bite.  It is a well-deserved scar.

My fingers hover over my keyboard, for they don’t want to keep record of the worst.  I am uncomfortable writing about the things I once said and did to the one I now call my best friend.  She knows these regrets.  We’ve analyzed to death why we tormented each other, and luckily we’ve moved past it.  But just in case I will say it once more: Dear Sister, I’m sorry.  I love you.

It is love that outweighs the rivalry, the snapshot moments that exude so much love that you forget about any contention that may have existed seconds before.  The moments like this morning when I’m scrambling to make breakfast, pack Calvin’s lunch, and start our Crock Pot dinner for tonight, and the boys are on the floor crawling around, pushing stools, throwing old Play Doh – making a mess.   They crawl over to where I’m chopping fruit for a smoothie and both kneel, bounce, and yell just to hear how their voices blend together. 

There is one my mom documented in a journal about my sister and me in the bathtub.  We are splashing around, really getting it going, sending the laps of water up the sides of the tub like we are in a tumultuous ocean.  I fill up a cup with water and dump it over Katy’s head.  She laughs like a maniac, so I do it again and again.  “She likes it, Mommy!” I say as water cascades through Katy’s white blond hair and over her naked body.

The ups and downs of loving and hating our siblings would drive us to a breaking point in any other relationship.  But with our brothers and sisters, we feel a bond that keeps us coming back for more.  Maybe it is that we shared the same woman’s womb, and if we didn’t, maybe it’s a past life that draws us near or something else entirely.  It’s kind of mystical and hard to write about because writing involves words.  Relationships like these can’t always be explained.

Before the sun is up, we lay together in bed.  There’s Daddy, who’s a separate entity on the left side of the bed.  And then there’s us.  We are one, limbs intertwined, heads resting on each other, the youngest suckling at my breast, the oldest wrapped up in my opposite arm.  Sweet boy reaches across my chest to find the hand of the baby.  Their fingers lace together and twist around, feeling one another, the many stories they’ve created before this one.  Their hands do a dance together in the dark above me.  

We are brothers they seem to sing, we are brothers for life.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Keri. All I can say is "wow!" Too small a word, but no others do the post nearly enough justice.