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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sister, Sister



I've recently reconnected with a sister I was only vaguely aware existed but had never met. We share the same genetics on our father's side, whom I only met once.
I went down to So. Cal to visit my parents and other siblings (a brother two years younger than me who I love more than words, and a sister who's 11 and I adore her) and I joined them at their church on Easter.

After the service, a beautiful young woman with eyes the same bright blue as mine and the same high cheekbones walked up to me and said "Hi. I'm Heather, your sister."

Needless to say we were both in shock. We'd both wanted to meet each other, but there was a lot of secrecy keeping us away for reasons neither of us understand. Now we're connected. She's 25. I'm 33. We also have a little brother. She's used to being the oldest and now has an older sister. I can only imagine how weird that would be to no longer be the oldest of my siblings. There's a lot of hoopla about birth order. Does it count when you're not raised that way and only realize your birth order as an adult.

My little sister was born after my brother and I left the house, so she's been raised as the youngest, as an only child and in some ways with all her nieces and nephews around her but younger, as the oldest child. When I'm rich I'll set aside money for her therapy.

In the meantime, I have the opportunity to connect with this awesome woman who has overcome so much and dealt with so much. Our mutual father died from Multiple Sclerosis complications. She cared for him quite a bit. I admire and respect what I've learned of her so far. And I'm so happy to be in her life finally, and have her in mine.

We share certain things, much of our looks, our gift in singing and our ability to rise from the ashes of broken lives and make something more of ourselves. We're fighters and we don't give up, even when we feel we've hit rock bottom.

Blood does not make family. I have a friend who is tighter than blood, bonded by spirit. But respect and sharing and love does make a family. And she's family.

I don't have the answers on nurture vs. nature, but I do know that some things we do inherit from the gene pool, and some things we bring in ourselves. It's a mix. And while we may not be able to choose our eye color, or cheek bone structure (without surgical intervention) we can choose what choices we make with our lives. There's no shame in falling down into the abyss. The strength lies in crawling back out of it.

In Buddhism, courage is not a lack of fear, but to follow through despite the fear. To use the fear to spur us to greater action. That is what she has done and I'm so honored to know her.

Now, we have a lifetime of catching up to do, one phone call and email at a time.