It is my sister's birthday today. I won't divulge how old she is, (yes, I do remember)but she is nine years older than me.
There are very few times I let her know how much she means to me. I regret that. Part of it is our family baggage-my dad was the sensitive one and my mother did not really appreciate that quality much, a piece is age difference- which has declined in significance as we both get older, and then there is my, shall we call it, lack of sensitivity other humans that I mastered at an early age- I'm getting better at it.
Let me tell you why my sister is so special. First, and foremost, I thank her for not letting me die of mysterious causes as an infant. I am sure it was tempting. Let me explain.
Our rooms adjoined; in order to get to hers, she had to walk through mine. And I was not the easiest baby to have next door. OK. It has been said that I was one of the angriest babies people encountered. I cried, no, screamed, a lot. My mother worked nights. My sister was in elementary school. Kids don't learn well when they have not had adequate sleep. My mother always claimed my sister had a comprehensive difficulty in math(that was not how my mother described it, but this is my version. I also think my mother was projecting her own insecurities with mathematical concepts) I believe that any difficulties can be blamed on sleep deprivation, which resulted in learning challenges. And let it be known, that she is better at math than I am.
The point is, at nine years-old, my sister suddenly had to deal with a screeching baby right outside her bedroom door. To say I disrupted her life is a gross understatement.
Despite this imposition, my sister always tried to take care of me when it mattered most. And she still does. Through the past ten years, my sister has gone above and beyond to make my life better. From sticking up for me even when I most certainly did not deserve it, organizing a bridal shower from seven hours away and keeping it a surprise until she ran into traffic(ok she kept the fact that our mom was with her a total surprise- even though I asked, with fear, if Mom was with her), ordering a months worth of food when I was first diagnosed with cancer, driving those same seven hours to go with me to appointments, taking care of me when I hit rock bottom, to shouldering the responsibility of funerals and estate settlement so I could finish school-actually, always being the responsible one (oh, except for that time she stole the car and went truant from school...).
My sister is the person that cured my ticklishness, who made most of my fingers curve in odd directions by bending them back whenever I annoyed her (it was a lot), who drove the 1966 Dodge Dart when I wouldn't (yeah, it's a classic now, but that was the vain eighties and I was sixteen), and most importantly, has always been there when I need her.
I wish I could give her a gift that would show her how much she means to me. I have tried in the past. She liked Carousel horses, so I designed, and was carving a carousel for her. I had one horse and a swan done, but then realized that the final product would have been too huge to display-I still have the unfinished pieces. (I did finally find her a little porcelain carousel horse, but much later.) The best one, for me, was when I was around eight or nine. I had saved up coins in a jar. My dad drove me to this odd little shopping complex, where there was a neat stuffed animal store on the lowest level. My sister had seen a stuffed raccoon there. I went in, dumped out my coins and bought it for her. She named it "Reynolds" and took it off to college.
Reynolds is a little worn and deformed now, but he still lives on the bureau in her bedroom. I am touched every time I see him.
That stuffed raccoon, in many ways describes the relationship that my sister and I share. I give her gifts that are usually late and always too small next to what she deserves. She takes my meager offerings, treasures them, and gives me so much more than I deserve in return.
Happy Birthday, Anne.