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Sisters and Brothers All These Years
Taking Another Look at the Longest Relationship in Your Life
by Lillian S. Hawthorne

Sibling Story: The Fabulous Foursome (Continued)

Even as the sisters grew up, Dora continued to be the family baby because of the age difference. In fact, she was still a little girl when her sisters were getting married and having children of their own, and she was often treated as though she were part of this younger generation. She confesses today that she enjoyed being babied. The older sisters agree that they babied her for several reasons: they wanted to help their overburdened, widowed mother; they felt sorry for their littlest sister, who had lost her father through sudden death and her mother through exhaustion and unavailability; and it made them feel mature, maternal, grown-up, and powerful.

Myra, the second youngest sister, is the only one who remembers sometimes feeling envious or resentful because she never had an opportunity to be babied herself. She was expected to grow up and become a caregiver like her older sisters. “We all had to be very responsible,” she says, “whether we wanted to or not.”

Over the years, the sisters remained close to each other, especially in times of crisis. Several years ago, when Dora’s son was critically ill and almost died, her sisters were a constant comfort. When two of the older sisters were widowed, the others were close by to keep them company and do thoughtful things to help. And just a few years ago, when their oldest sister, Ida, died, the sisters remember feeling shocked and lost, as if their whole world had suddenly changed. But at least they still had each other, and they could be together to try to keep things as much the same as possible.

Today the four of them live not together but near to each other in the same senior retirement community. They speak to each other or see each other almost daily. Even if they don’t see every sister every day, there is always some shared contact or communication among them.

They are all quick to point out that they have other friends as well, because they each have their own different interests. Dora is the businesswoman in the family and still has some part-time work commitments. Myra is the social activist and crusader for causes, especially on behalf of children. Clara is the amateur artist and sculptress. Emma, now the oldest, used to be the best cook and homemaker in the family but is now ill and frequently housebound. Dora has taken over the driving and shopping chores that Emma can no longer do for herself. With the memory of Ida’s death still fairly recent, the other sisters worry about Emma, although they do not openly or directly discuss their fears with each other.

The four sisters still marvel about their relationships with each other over all these years. None of them seems to recall any serious quarrels, angers, or upsets among them. “At any rate,” Myra comments, “there was nothing important enough to make any difference between us, nothing important enough even to remember.” Dora sums it up for herself by saying, “First, as a little girl, they were like four mothers who took care of me. Then, when I was grown up, they were my four best friends to care about me. I really feel lucky!”

All excerpts from Sisters and Brothers All These Years,
Copyright 2003 by Lillian S. Hawthorne

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