My Frienemy, My Adversary, My Best Friend: My Sister
Oil and water, fire and ice; these are the words that used to describe my sister and I while growing up. Born four years and four days apart from each other you’d think we’d have a lot in common and be close right? Not so much. We did a lot of arguing, fighting, hair pulling and tattling. But looking at us today you wouldn’t know that.
I like to say that our relationship changed when I started having children and she became Aunt Chrissy instead of just my sister, Chrissy. If you ask her she’ll likely tell you that our relationship changed when our parents divorced and I moved in with our dad. Either way, a shift happened somewhere and today we’re as close as sisters can be (whatever that actually means).
I hadn’t really realized just how close we were until we sat down recently for an interview with a local news channel. They were doing a feature story on my sister and niece and the walk that we were doing for organ donation. My sister told the reporter that everything she’s done and all the attention they’ve been able to give to my niece’s heart transplant story has been in part because of me; I’ve been behind her every step of the way, making sure people knew who Zoe was, who my sister was, and why we are so passionate about organ donation.
It was a nice compliment (coming from the girl who used to tattle on me for sport) but I don’t believe a word she said to the reporter. I think of it as doing what any sister would do. When Zoe was sick and my sister was neck deep in stress and doctors, I told her that whatever needed to be done I would do and that she should worry about Zoe and let me worry about the rest. “What Chrissy wants, Chrissy gets” became my motto. I would move the heavens to make sure that the only thing she needed to worry about was making sure Zoe got better. Keeping my sister sane became my top priority.
This is what sisters do. This is who sisters are. We are best friends and worst enemies. Not even your husband knows the secrets that your sister knows and unless she wants her own secrets spilled, yours are safe with her.
The reporter then asked my sister and me if we’d always been this close. We both laughed and shook our heads 'No, definitely not.'
The night my niece received her heart transplant, we sat huddled in the waiting room, talking and laughing like the children’s floor waiting room of the Cleveland Clinic was the most normal place in the world to meet and chat in the middle of the night. I don’t remember what we were saying to each other but I do remember my dad looking at us and saying, “You two have your own language,” he looked at the others in the room with us, “Has anyone ever noticed that? Listening to you two – it’s like watching a secret conversation that only the two of you know.” My sister and I both looked at each other and decided that either dad was starting to lose a little of his mind or he needed some coffee. But there might be something to what my dad said because Chrissy and I can look at each other and know what’s going to be the next thing that comes out of the other’s mouth. We look at our daughters walking by and instantly know that they’re in cahoots with each other on something and we need to put a stop to it: Quickly.
Maybe it was my niece’s illness that made us realize just who we have in one another, but I caution on that way of thinking, because if I followed that logic then that would mean that a horrible illness had to come to our family in order for us to be as close as we are. Therefore, I refuse to believe in that way of thinking; it may have opened our eyes to the precious gift of life and how invaluable our children are but I don’t think it brought us closer.
No, what I really think is that it took growing up and both of us becoming adults in order for us to realize what we have in each other. I think it took us becoming parents ourselves and finally seeing just how nuts we made our own parents. But I think that’s the same for any sibling relationship. I know who has my back and who will jump to my defense when I need it – and she’s the same person who will call me on my BS when I need it, too.
I don’t exactly know when my sister stopped being my adversary or my nemesis and became my best friend but whenever that happened, however it happened, outside of the birth of our kids – it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
And as for that secret language? It’s special, unbreakable, and more precious than gold; it’s the language of sisters.
Tune in to Lifetime to watch Against the Wall for more family stories Sundays at 10pm/9c.