A Tale of Two Sisters: Choose Your Own Ending

This week marked my sister’s birthday. It’s the 22nd one she’s had since she stopped talking to me. In an earlier post I wrote about how I wasn’t sure if I’d recognize her or if she’d know me. I’m sorry if you can relate to that because you’re estranged from a sibling. It pretty much sucks.

But this week I had a realization. I don’t have to be miserable every time I think about my sister. I can choose to remember a good memory and to replace the pain with that memory when I think of her. Truth be told, I don’t think of her that often but on weeks like this one, it happens and it’s a bummer. Not any more.

You feel what you feel in life but you can choose your reaction to it. That’s what I always taught my daughters. You can’t control everything but you can control how you react to everything. (or most things). So this year when my sister creeps into my brain I’m going to remember this.

We were young, maybe 14 and 9. We were watching the “Beverly Hillbillies” on TV and the daughter in the show, Ellie May, was playing with a bra. She didn’t recognize it as clearly, “hillbillies” had no use for undergarments of that nature. (Wow, was that show offensive or what? Good thing the PC police weren’t around then.) So, the character used it as a slingshot. Well, that was simply hilarious to us and we started to giggle and then to guffaw loudly enough to bring my father into the room. “What’s so funny?” he wanted to know.

Neither of us could say the word “bra” to my father. My sister probably was wearing one and definitely couldn’t say the word. This was a girl who had to recite Shakespeare for school and wouldn’t say “Damn” so she walked around the house saying, “Out, blank spot.” She was clearly not saying “bra.”  I said nothing but Dad was waiting for an answer. My sister sensed my discomfort and gave him a satisfactory answer. “She has a funny accent,” my sister explained. My dad left the room. We looked at each other and started laughing all over again. We shared a secret and a giggle. Very rare indeed. The fact that this is one of the only good stories I can tell about a nice moment with my sister is in itself pretty telling about our relationship growing up.

But, here’s the message of this post. If you are hurting from the actions of other people be they family, coworkers or anyone else in your life, remember this — you can’t change them but you choose how you react to them.

Happy birthday to my sister. I hope you are enjoying a good laugh, albeit not with me. I am smiling at a memory of us, that’s what I choose this year.

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17 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Sisters: Choose Your Own Ending

  1. “I can choose to remember a good memory and to replace the pain with that memory when I think of her.” Thank you for sharing this. Although my circumstances are different than yours, you have no idea how much this is helping me.

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  2. Brava to you, my friend. And you are brave, as in “courageous” too. Loved the story. Here’s a postscript to go with it: “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. But forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart. You have done the heart-healthy thing today, Debby.

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  3. Sadly, I can relate to this all too easily. I have not seen or spoken to my brother since 1997. One’s attitude is all. What has brought happiness into my life is finally being able to get in touch with his children (I’d been banned from ever seeing or meeting them) via FB. They have little to do with their father who is a nightmare. My eldest niece came to stay with us in Crete in April and my joy was unconfined!

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    1. It’s so good that this estrangement didn’t pass to the next generation for your family. It sounds like your brother’s children at least understood the issues and chose not to allow their father’s choices to guide their lives. My kids (adults now) don’t see their cousins as the family dysfunction has been drummed into our siblings’ kids too. It’s sad but some people are just that dysfunctional. Thanks for taking the time to let me know sometimes these things end happily.

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  4. It is such a shame that your sister chose not to keep in contact with you as that must hurt, It is wonderful though that you are being positive in remembering a good time that you shared together,and that you still think of her 🙂

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    1. Thanks. She had her reasons for cutting me out of her life, mostly having to do with her truly awful husband. But it’s been a long time and I’d rather not always feel badly when I think about her, which I do from time to time. There are so many people with estrangement in their families. Makes me wonder what causes it all…

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  5. I have many times wondered about that family estrangement, Debby. I could cite several examples from the in-laws, but I refuse to engage them in my thoughts. We have tried to be peacemakers, but all has fallen on deaf, and very stubborn ears for almost 30 years now. My own birth family is another matter altogether….

    Like you, I have a lifelong difficult relationship with a sister that is not understood by the rest of my 4 adult siblings. There was childhood abuse that I will not disclose to them; they have a very different relationship with each of us separately, and I see no reason to tarnish their image of her. Some time ago, after years of trying to mend the hurt, jealousy and competitive streak that was nurtured between us from the age of toddlers, I just gave up. We were never meant to be friends. Life placed us in the same family, we share a genetic code, but that’s about it. I’m okay with it all now.

    We talk on the phone on rare occasions, usually to deal with family issues, deaths, illness, etc. I haven’t seen her in person since about 1999, just after our father passed. I too, wonder if I’d recognize her at this point ?

    As part of my own healing, I wrote her a long letter, expressing all my pain, perception, feelings, etc. Of course, I never sent it, but it worked to release me from all the issues.

    Sorry to go on so long, your very thoughtful post just triggered the response. Be well. xoxo Van

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  6. Thanks for writing this. It does make me feel less alone. I only have the one sibling so I’m pretty much alone without her. Like you, though, I don’t think we were meant to be friends. We’re so different and I no longer believe that a blood tie is enough of a reason to love someone. I’m lucky to have close friends, sisters of choice I guess and while it’s not the same, it helps to have people I trust who trust me in my life. My sister was never that, even in the best of times. I have thought about letter writing as you did. Never did it. Did, however write an entire book about it (half about her, half about my husband’s deranged relatives) so maybe that’s enough! Enjoy a fabulous weekend, my cyber friend.

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  7. So sorry for your pain, Debby! But one day you will be together and forgive and forget. In the meantime try to keep that good memory close until it grows bigger in your heart. She must be missing you too. Spouses unfortunately can sometimes cause a rift in families but families are connected by more than just blood. Keep your sister in your heart. She will come back one day. Blessings to you!

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    1. It took me a day or so to write this reply because I just don’t believe we will ever reconcile and wasn’t even sure how I feel about that concept. But I do keep her in my heart, as you suggest and I am open to her return… I think. It’s a nice thought anyway. Thanks for this, it’s a new perspective.

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