Sister #6 & Sister #7

Thank you to everyone who commented, both publicly and privately, regarding my Eight is Enough post or, as my youngest daughter who proofed it for me called it, my “whammo post.”

Since she was so nice to be my editor, I thought it only fitting to recognize her by posting one of my all-time favorite pictures of her.

Now she may never forgive me, but she was a cute little kid.  After 7 eye surgeries, she no longer wears glasses, and her teeth are much straighter after braces.  But, other than that, she looks just as cute now as she did back then!

My Eight is Enough post provided the context for me to talk about two of my sisters – sister #6 and sister #7.  They were born after my only brother and before my baby sister, who continues to remind us all of her status by putting #8 behind her signature.

Here’s a picture of them from 1969.

One of them, sister #6, moved to California many years ago.  The lifestyle there seems to fit her perfectly.  Even as a young child, she was a free spirit.  She always had an engaging and gregarious personality.  She’s never met a stranger – that’s what was always said about her because she would bring random people home as if they were lifelong friends.  And these random people were often adults.  And as friendly as she has always been with other people, she has been guarded with us.

Here’s a picture of her from 1983.  I think she moved to California not too long after this.

Her reaction to our childhood was to distance herself from all of us, her siblings.  It’s a form of what therapists refer to as “cutting off behavior”.  Hers is a little passive-aggressive in that she hasn’t cut herself off completely, but she comes into and out of the circle of family members often based on personal need rather than a longstanding desire to have fully engaged relationships with us.

We don’t see eye to eye, but that’s all right with me.  For instance, she will not be my “friend” on Facebook.  She has friended all of my kids.  She has friended all of our siblings.  She has an uncanny ability to hit people where it hurts.  It’s a key feature of families, I think, to know someone well enough to know exactly how to push their buttons and to know exactly what hurts the most.

Sister #7 is an interesting case.  Of course, in many families, good ones and bad ones, you find those who decide that they want to completely cut off from the family.  This sister was always a little different.  She ran with a “bad” crowd.  She was involved in drugs.  She seemed to be born without a morality gene.  From all accounts, she is “successful” but she has had a string of relationships that have turned ugly in the end.  She’s always been a bit of a Svengali who chooses to act out toward others when she no longer gets what she wants.

Here’s a picture of her from 1982.  I love this picture.  It’s just a candid shot of a beautiful young woman.  I haven’t seen her in over 20 years.  I don’t know if I would recogize her if I saw her on the street.  I don’t remember the sound of her voice.  I think that’s weird.

I can’t say that I miss these two.  I do think about them.  I do wonder about them.  I do lose sleep over them sometimes.  But each of us takes our experiences and reacts to them in different ways.  Sister #6 stays on the fringes of our family.  Sister #7 just completely cut herself off from the rest of us.

Our father died nearly 2 years ago.  The 3 of us who lived nearby spent the 2 years prior to his death in constant fire drill mode with him.  Those that lived away took turns coming into town and taking care of other family business that could be handled remotely.  It all worked out well and in many ways brought us closer together.  When the time was drawing near, we discussed when to get in contact with sister #7.  At the end of the day, it was decided to wait until he died and then to initiate contact.  She neither attended the funeral nor contacted any of us directly.  She chose, instead, to use a go between and a lawyer to take care of her business with our father.

I, for one, am grateful for every ounce of friendship and time I have with my siblings – at least with the 5 of them with whom I have relationships.  We don’t all have the same ideological beliefs, but it works because for at least 6 of us there is love and respect for one another.  And I, for one, will take that along with all of the love from extended family and friends with whom I have been blessed over anyone who chooses not to have a relationship with me.

The last time 7 of us were together was for my father’s funeral nearly 2 years ago.  My mother came to visit then, too, not because she cared about my father, her ex-husband, but because it was a rare opportunity for us to spend time together.

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