‘Did you know that Laura is learning to drive now in Scotland?’
The comment takes me by surprise but hits home, although it is not intended to do so. My sister immigrated to the land of our father’s birth a few years ago in a surprise move. She keeps in contact with Joe, a cousin who is the caregiver of our aunt, who passed the 100 milestones.
“Oh, she and I don’t correspond,” I respond weakly.
“The manual is pretty thick,” he replies, unfazed. “ Driving on the oppositive side of the road sounds difficult.”
“I’m sure she will manage.” My brother and I lock eyes, and he shakes his head.
My sister’s adverse history with her siblings is a well known fact among our family. It is not just me; she has alienated, but my brother refused to attend family gatherings if she was present. And my younger sister, the peacemaker, just pretended nothing happened.
The Beginning of the End
My mother died five years ago, and the settling of the will and the estate solidified the end of any continued relationship my brother and I would have with her. She turned nasty and vindictive, and everything became about her as the oldest.
We should have seen the preliminary warnings when our mother needed medical intervention, and she fought against the three of us when we moved mom to a nursing facility. Being the oldest, she somehow felt entitled her to a more significant share of votes in the process, and she lobbied for home care, which would have been feasible except for the fact that home care was more costly.
Our Family of Origin
Each of us 16 months apart from the other, my mother was busy raising four babies all at the same time. Hidden behind the smiling showcased family dressed up for church, was an abusive alcoholic father who wreaked havoc daily and his enabler, our mother , who protected him. As the oldest, my sister suffered the most. She was the perfect one. She excelled at school with excellent grades, perfect attendance, and being the teacher’s pet.
Children of Alcoholics
Sisterly bonds are forged in an atmosphere of trust, love, loyalty and respect. Our home life was unpredicable. Friends were not allowed in our house. All of us were busy playing our parts to keep our family from spinning out of control. My sister, the hero, overachiever, perfectionist. My younger sister, the clown, laughing and teetering on getting in trouble. My brother, the lost child disappearing into books, and me a combination of all three. We were too busy playing our roles to spend time forging bonds with each other.
She followed in my mother’s footsteps and married an abusive partner. She divorced him after the birth of her second child, but never let go of what she thought was the guilt and shame of a failed marriage. She battled her ex-husband during the years her children were growing up in court related custody issues, always proclaiming her wins. She watched her siblings’ marriages flourish, much to her dismay. When my marriage ended after twenty years, there were no words of comfort or sympathy — just silence.
She and I both became alcoholics. She stopped drinking, but she didn’t take the next step and change her behaviors. She called me when she heard I was in treatment for addiction, warning me to not tell any family secrets. Much like our father, she was stuck in the mindset of alcoholism being a character defect or a moral one.
Perhaps if my sister had been born into a family where she was not given the role of a parent before she was able to experience that of being a child, she might have turned out differently. She might have been happy. She might have been able to trust people, and she might have been able to love, she might have been able to understand who she was.
My sister lives as a victim. It is a choice. Counseling, group therapy, or medication would be helpful for her to see past her addictive way of thinking.