I’m going to be honest with you, my friends, I’ve been flailing around trying to begin my post this week. It’s been a tumultuous week for my family. For me, and my sisters, and my mum… for all of us… in different ways. Everyone is well. No one died. No one has contracted a fatal illness. But relationships have been strained. And I will say that never before have Carolyn and Connie and I needed our sister support network like we have this week.
Anyway. That’s all I want to say about that. Mostly because it’s a story we all know. Or can guess. And it’s not entirely my story to tell so I won’t spell out the events.
That’s my sisters and my brother, above, back in the fifties. I love my brother’s neckerchief. And that scowl. Except for a cheeky grin in his grade one school photo, he never, ever smiled for pictures. I also love my sisters’ matching sailor outfits with the crinolines. I’m smiling as I look at that photo because, despite the matching outfits, my sisters are two very different kettles of fish.
Family relationships are complex, aren’t they? There are so many variables that make everyone’s view of the same events different. My sisters and I grew up in the same house. But, as I recently read about sibling relationships, birth order and changing family circumstances and environment, mean we didn’t grow up in quite the same family.
For one thing, I benefited hugely from being young enough to still be at home when Mum married my stepfather. I guess you know how much I benefited from Mum’s remarriage because I often whitter on about my stepfather here on the blog. A couple of years ago, when Mum was still reading my blog, she said that I had “turned him into quite the character.” But as I told her at the time, everything I wrote about happened. And was the complete truth. My truth. But perhaps not hers.
I know that marrying someone who was kind and patient, but maybe not the love of her life, and tackling a big, old farmhouse in severe need of redecoration, along with all the other work that living on the farm entailed, meant that she had a very different view of moving to the farm than I did. Me, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I was the real-life embodiment of Anne of Green Gables, with Matthew Cuthbert sitting beside me at the dinner table each night. Ha.
So, as you can see, I have two sisters. I’ve written before on the blog about my sisters; you can read that post here if you’re interested. And aside from the fact that I benefited from growing up on the farm, I am just as different from them, as they are from each other.
I do, however, share some things with each of them that they don’t share with each other. My sister Connie and I have always loved books and reading. While a conversation between my sister Carolyn and me does not get very far before we’re talking about clothes, or hair. And we all three have a different view of our childhoods, and slightly differing views of our mum. You know, sometimes I wish I could go back and relive our shared experiences, but as them and not me. Just so that I could have a deeper insight into how it is to be them. But I can’t do that. So I have to try to put myself in their shoes as best I can.
Over the years our sisterly relationships have waxed and waned. When I moved back home to New Brunswick in 1984, I was much closer to my sister Connie. I spent a lot of time with Connie and her husband and kids. They lived a two hour drive from the farm, and I was a frequent weekend visitor. I cherish the memories of those weekends, making homemade pasta and babysitting while Connie and her husband Pat went to Mass. And later after supper, playing Trivial Pursuit, and listening to Pat’s opera tapes. And of course growing closer to their kids.
For the past twenty years or so I’ve been closer to Carolyn. She lived an hour away from Manotick, so we frequently shopped together, planned our wardrobes, and stressed about our hair. We talked about other things too, her son to whom I am quite close, and about her work and mine. Not necessarily complaining about work, although there was some of that, but exploring our views of our work and the idea of leadership and what we gained from taking on leadership roles.
But as it does so many things, time changed all that. People move and relationships shift and morph into something different.
Connie and her husband moved away to Alberta, and then years later back east from Alberta to Ontario. She retired and so did I. And we began to talk way more than we had in years. Especially after the pandemic began. And that has been wonderful, I must say.
Carolyn’s life changed too when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. During the pandemic we spoke most days on the phone. Especially after she retired and began the long road of caring for her husband full-time. Then Carolyn’s husband passed away. And last fall she elected to move in with Mum to care for her.
Let’s just take a moment, shall we, to ponder the impact that has had on both her and Mum’s lives. The sacrifice that has meant for Carolyn. And how darned lucky Mum has been that Carolyn was able, and willing, to take that step.
I know both Connie and I are supremely grateful to her. Neither of us could do what our sister has done. For one thing Connie’s own health has been precarious, plus her husband is still working. And me… well… I could NOT do what my sister Carolyn does for Mum. She is well qualified to be Mum’s carer. She studied nursing in university before switching to pharmacy, so she has the expertise. And let’s just say that the thought of dealing with our mother’s “peri-care,” does not fill her with dread as it does me and Connie. Orifices are not us. Especially not me. At least Connie has had experience changing diapers. Unlike me. Ha.
You know, when one sibling steps up to take on a greater role in an aging parent’s care, family relationships can become complex in a whole new way. Can even become a bit precarious. Parent to adult child relationships change. Big time. And even sibling relationships alter as roles shift. Sometimes our differing perspectives brought about by the fact that we none of us had the exact same experiences growing up mean less and less. Yes, we’re very different people. But a situation frequently fraught with emotional events teaches us that we just need to band together. And try to have each other’s back.
This past week I’ve been reading another Marian Keyes novel. Anybody Out There the fourth in the Irish Walsh family series. Gad I love Keyes’ novels, and those Walsh sisters. Like me and my sisters, they are all very different women. They have their rows, but in the end they always have each other’s back.
And after this past week I think my sisters and I can safely say that we definitely have each other’s backs. I think our sister support network is alive and well. And functioning as it should.
And I think that we’re all three very grateful for that.
P.S. That book link is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog.
P.P.S. I’m sending this post off into the ether, crossing my fingers, and hoping you receive it in your email inbox on Sunday as scheduled. And, if you haven’t already, you may want to go back and read last week’s post that you didn’t receive. Sigh. Blogging is learning, my friends. Learning tech stuff… and learning patience. Ha.