Oh sister when I come to lie in your armsYou should not treat me like a stranger
Our Father would not like the way that you act
And you must realize the danger.
Oh sister am I not a brother to you
And one deserving of affection ?
(Dylan, "oh sister")
I suffer from intense sibling rivalry sometimes. My sisters fight over my love. It’s a cool position to be in, for a baby brother (both are old enough to be my mother), but I have to play my cards right.
L. lives one town away, and I see her once or twice a week in the flesh, and hear from her just about every day on our cell phones. She’s going to be 63 in chronological age next month, but since meeting the love of her life, G., has regressed to the young girl I knew once upon a time, when I wa 5 or 6. A bubbly fountain of joy and retained innocence and naivete. Sexy, no doubt. The effect she has on men of every age is astonishing, but she never sees it.
S. lives in Maine, has been a social worker for 40 yrs , will be 61. She can easily pass for 62, that salt and pepper hair, the slow voice like a foghorn for the soul, the pronouncements on what needs to be done. But: she has an appealing habit of bursting into tears when she hears a ‘sob story’, and she hears a lot of them. They are about innocence betrayed. And the actions her ‘clients ‘ take to remedy this, often violent or just foolhardy.
S. was expected by my parents to be the successful one. I honestly don’t know what exactly they thought she was going to do, but …certainly great things. She went to Dad’s college, Bates. Dad had connections there, and kept an eye on her. She was there in the early 70’s, a beautiful sensitive intelligent woman, so she fell in with the “hippies”.
The family lore is that S. fried out her brains with all the drugs she did. I once asked S, “Did you?”
“oh my gawd,” her crowlike catchphrase, “they were nuts. I did some pot, some acid once. They got no f-ing idea.”
“She had such potential, it is a shame,” my parents George & Eleanor sighed.
L went into the insurance industry for forty years. She recently retired. When mom and dad were alive, she called at least 3 or 4 times a week, and came to visit every weekend. In her frenetic way, she insisted upon doing yard work to help out.
There she was, L. , doing yard work.
Me and Dad and Mom sitting in the living room to wait for some face-time.
“Ach, that is YOUR job, dammit, Jim? Yes? Isnt she done yet?” Dad stretching his neck to watch her trimming bushes.
Mother adding, “ He is too lazy. Thank heavens for L.”
I would vociferously protest, for I yard work everyday, plus cooking for them, plus finding movies to watch, plus driving them around everywhere: Dad to the liquor store or gas station, Mom to endless doctor’s appointments.
L would come in all sweaty.
“Sit down! Talk with us!” Dad commanded. Mom was quiet.
“Ok, but just for a minute. A lot of work to do around here , yknow?”
Mother looking at me: “Well, James Mark, don’t you feel ashamed? Your sister doing all this work you should be?”
“Absolutely.” I would say.
“Mom, it’s ok…Jimmy does a lot around here…” looking at my ally, George, my father..
“Gosh, ja! I honestly don’t know how we could make it without him! A good boy.” Then a look at me and one of his German snarls, “the best boy!” A wink.
“Oh, but he is not an outside person like u, L,” mom would concede.
“Well! It’s ok! I love doing things for you guys! Gotta be done, right?”
When S came for a (brief ) visit, she would love to tend mother’s garden. And drag L and me into it.
“Yeah ok!” L would be very happy.
I would grumble internally, which my clairvoyant mother would catch , and snicker. “oh you kids, than u so much!”
Dad and mom on the patio in cheap plastic chairs watching our progress, which was…manic.
S wants me to join her for a full 10 days at the Maine International Film Festival, but I have Georgie puppy babysitting duties starting Tuesday. I don’t want the little “shithead” (as S unkindly calls him) to suffer a visit to the kennel. Also I don’t know if I could spend 11 days with S. We never ever have.
L is upset because she projects that it will seem to S as if she is more important than her. She is afraid of getting the blame for disappointing S. That is how L is.
ME? 11 DAYS. … god Christ almighty…
I asked Georgie puppy about this.
He said, “ well , you got responsibilities to me! I don’t want to go to a kennel!”
“Yeah, I will use that as my excuse for leaving early”
“Glad to help, uncle. Hey! Maybe you could walk me without the choker chain? It makes me suffocate.”
“Oh, Georgie, you are exaggerating.”
“How about..a leashless walk?”
We grew up together
From the cradle to the grave
We died and were reborn
And then mysteriously saved.
Oh sister when I come to knock on your door
Don't turn away you'll create sorrow
Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore
You may not see me tomorrow.