Sisters – Part 4
I remembered the disappointed looks I received from my sisters when I left family dinners early due to my ill health. The most recent time was last Christmas. It was also one of the few times all of us girls were together. I know it was because Melissa goaded the other two into coming. My dad had gotten a negative report at the doctor’s and she was worried it would be one of his last Christmases. Melissa had badgered all of us to stand together for a photo. She posted it all over Facebook, saying how it was one of the few photos with all four of us and my dad.
That reminded me of the phone call I received last fall when my dad was having the stent put in his leg for blood clots. He had to be in the hospital for a couple of days and my mom was staying with him. I was checking on their cat and getting the mail when my phone rang.
“What did you tell the other girls?” My mom sounded angry.
“About your dad? Lisa just called the hospital in tears thinking she had to come up here right now because he was dying!”
“I haven’t talked to her at all.” I was confused. Explaining myself, I added, “I sent all of them a text message yesterday with the hospital phone number and dad’s room number. That was all.”
“I’ll have to call you back,” she informed me. “The doctor just came in.” She hung up before I could respond.
Great, I thought. I wondered which one of them lied about me this time. I felt a flash of irritation. “We are all way too old for this shit,” I mumbled to the cat.
That afternoon I took my kids to the hospital to see my dad, and my mom asked me to go into the hall to talk to her.
“Lisa said Judy told her that you said that dad was in bad shape and might not make it through the surgery.”
“I never even talked to Judy! She doesn’t answer her phone when I call, so I don’t even bother anymore,” I said as I held my phone out to my mom. “I sent her the same text message as the other two. Look.”
“That’s what I thought.” My mom frowned. “I wonder what she’s up to. She gets to be more like her mother the older she gets.”
My dad’s first wife, Linda, is not very nice. She is manipulative and likes to cause trouble. We all tried to get along with each other when it’s Judy’s turn to host any family events because Judy always invites her mother. Linda usually makes some sort of scene with either my dad or Judy’s daughter-in-law. My mom and I are both polite to her, but keep our distance to avoid conflict.
A couple of weeks later, my mom told me that Judy was mad at me for telling my cousins that they were not being supportive of their grandpa, so she wanted to make my dad upset with me. I had to explain to my mom what happened.
When my cousin Gina had to go through chemotherapy for breast cancer, her sisters made her a paper chain with inspirational messages on it. One chain for each chemo treatment. Gina said it kept her going when things got hard. I wanted to do the same for my dad, so I messaged my sisters and all my nieces, nephews, and cousins. I asked them to send me a short note of encouragement or love that I could put on one of the paper links. Not one of my sisters or their children responded. I sent them all a message basically telling them that they were rude for not supporting their father/grandpa/uncle during this time in his life.
“I think Lisa is starting to realize how hard it is to be alone. She’s always either been with her mother and I or married. She’s never been on her own before.” My dad startled me out of the thoughts of Judy’s betrayal. “Maybe she figured out that it’s not easy being on the outside. Well, I better go back out to the shop and get this bowl finished.”
I spent another hour or so with my mom, just chatting about their garden, the approaching canning season, and other summer plans. Before I left, I made sure to see my dad in his shop so he could show me his latest projects. As usual, he had something to say to me that he wouldn’t say in front of anyone else.
“Give Lisa a chance, will you? She’s really been struggling lately.”
“I will, dad. Love you.” I gave him a hug, then laughingly brushed sawdust off my shirt.
It is only with the lens of age that understanding comes. Sometimes it takes a lot of soul searching and maybe even counseling. By the time Lisa had gotten brave enough to send me that text, because I do think it took a lot of courage for her, I had already moved on. Not once in my entire life have I ever referred to my sisters as “step-sisters;” although, they frequently called me that, I never saw them as anything less than family.
Lisa’s text brought back all those memories, as if they were fresh and new, not thirty years old. Yet I felt different about it; I felt more whole and less wounded. I had been through a lot in my own life and came to the conclusion that it is not worth hanging onto pain. If I had clung to every moment in my past that caused me heartache, I would be a blubbering idiot on a street corner or in a mental health institution. I knew my brain, and most importantly my heart, could not hold all of that negativity and still function.
Then, I knew exactly the best way to respond to her text. I forgave you a long time ago, even if I never said it. Thank you for apologizing. It really means a lot to me. Love you, Sis.