Saturday, October 23, 2010


One of the questions at That's My Answer this morning was about how well you get along with your siblings.

As I have explained before, my only sister, who was 4-1/2 years younger than I, was murdered in 1971 by her partner. I have suffered a lot of guilt about Karen's death over the years.

A lot of the guilt stems from the fact that she and I were never close. We shared a room but were always at odds with each other from her birth. I don't remember any wonderful sister moments. In high school, she took up with a woman and pulled away from the family. It was more of a stigma to be gay then and the whole fact of her being gay, which we only suspected for a long time, was a big issue for the family, until she finally confessed to my mother (but never spoke with me about it).

We were all relieved when she was dumped by her first partner and met another woman, the woman who eventually killed her, who seemed to be very nice who kind of brought Karen back into the family again.

But by that time I was married and raising children. Karen was hardly on the radar. It seemed that every time we got together there was underlying tension around.

But the last time I saw her, when she and her partner came to dinner, we had such a wonderful time and the thought in my mind as she and her partner drove away was "that was a lot of fun--maybe now that we are adults, we can finally be friends."

A week later she was in a coma, from which she never emerged and two months after that she was dead.

My guilt comes from the fact that everyone assumes this was a huge tragedy in my life and, in fact, it was not. I don't remember crying about her death. I remember being angry with her for dying when my parents' marriage broke up a couple of years later because of the emotional upheaval I was going through by myself, which I felt should have been a shared experience....or at the very least a bit easier if we could have shared it.

But lately I'm surprised to find that I miss her. I never thought I would say that.

I thought about her a lot during the wedding in D.C. recently. One of the things I love most about the Sykes family is how close they are. Walt and his siblings are extremely close and have been brought even closer together by the failing health of their mother.

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Walt and his sister are huge text-buddies, in the weird shorthand that both of them use.

As we sat at Steamers on the day after the wedding, and those of us "Hour Baur widows" sat there watching the 3 Sykes siblings chatting incessantly, I missed my sister. I missed having a sister to talk with, someone who has known my entire history.

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On Cousins Days, I listen to Peach and Kathy each talk about their sisters. Both have difficulties with their sisters, but they have sisters. Karen has been gone so long we seem to forget she ever existed.

I watch the closeness of my own children, and the support they are to each other, even if they don't see each other all that often.

I don't know how my life would be different if Karen hadn't died. But somehow I know that it would have been different and I'm sorry I missed the chance to find out how.


Indigo said...

As the mother of an only child I often wonder if we made the right decision because my brother and I are so close. We work together, text back and forth, Facebook each other from our offices (10' away), and understand each other's quirks and moods. I can't imagine life without him.

You may not have Karen, but you have your cousins, and I love how you always have Cousins Day. I'm counting on my brother's twin sons, who are 16, to be there for my daughter in the way a sibling would.

l'empress said...

Remember, it's not a given. Over the past sixty-plus years, my sister and I were at odds more often than not. And the times we were not were usually because I gave in rather than fight. (My mother was a Taurus; one Taurus woman at a time, please.)

When she phoned me yesterday for whatever reason it was ("I am so busy, but I had to make sure you're all right"), I told her there were new pictures of the grandkids available. She is too busy for any pictures she didn't take herself. I raptured over the girls, 'cause they are so cute, and she excused herself and hung up.

Yeah, I did it on purpose. Yeah, we share memories, but she gets vry snarky if I remember something she doesn't (I am older, y'know). She thinks she's still running the show, and doesn't get it that my life is elsewhere. My kids are my closer friends. And my friends, though fewer in number, last longer.