About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yin and Yang Sisters

Messiness is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Gattina, our host over at Writer's Cramps ,wants to see a photo of what we'd call our messy place. If I were still working, it would be my entire office. Colleagues used to stick their heads in my work space and mutter something like "You better hope the fire marshal doesn't show up." or "This must be your job security--who would be willing to clear out this place if you were ever fired?" That was some time ago, three years to be exact since I retired.

In my home I live a very pared down existence with minimum stuff to leave messy. However, I do have a messy situation in my life that causes conflict and frustration--the challenge of caring for an older sister with whom I have very little in common. We are the yin and yang sisters.



My sister and I were about the same age, probably 14 or 15, when these photos were taken. M (on the left) is nine years older than I. Recently I've been scanning and organizing family photos and when I studied these photos of us side by side I thought: we are so different on every level. And, it got me thinking about how different our life paths have taken. We could not be further apart in personality and interests. I see these contrasts in our photos and the effects on our relationship now--over 40 years later. Over the past year, my care taking responsibilities for M have grown--to what seems like full time some weeks. This is not how I planned to live out retirement years. I hoped to spend my eagerly anticipated retirement years freely pursuing a quiet, creative, almost scholarly lifestyle. However, that's not my current reality.

My family has never been very close. Now it's only my sister and me left except for a brother in another state who doesn't involve himself in our lives. That's the way it has always been. My sister left school at 16 and stayed home with my parents, working for a few years as a housekeeper/babysitter. She never married, nor did I--one thing we have in common. I loved school and saw an education as the way to ensure a happy independent future for myself. I left home for college and never returned, managing to graduate from college without any support, financial or otherwise, from my family. Work took me to many different places, but never back to my parents' house except for obligatory visits.

After my parents died, M lived independently, which was just the way she liked it. She dealt with some chronic illnesses, but nothing serious. She built a big network of friends, keeping in touch with many people by phone and extensive correspondence. She never learned to drive which was not a big issue in the small town where she lived. I made regular trips to see her and help with any business that she couldn't sort out. I will have to admit that these were strictly duty visits--a stepping up to the plate because no one else would. I became my sister's "fixer."

About this time last year I had to re-locate my sister to Louisville, where I live. She lost her apartment to a fire and her health and ability to manage on her own was declining. We had a rough few months trying to live under one roof. And there was a lot of stress in having to sort out all the red tape of moving her, finding her new housing, and lining up medical and legal provisions for her ongoing care. I did this alone without much cooperation from M. But, after a year, things are on an even keel. My sister enjoys her safe new apartment and the companionship of other women her age in the apartment building. She has good medical care and never has to worry about affording her prescriptions. She spends her days chatting with friends, watching TV, and keeping up her extensive correspondence. I live about 10 minutes from her so am always on call for chauffeuring, shopping, laundressing, business responsibilities. I am my sister's fixer. Most days my "halo" is a bit crooked because I think: how did this happen? And why is it that in every family there plays out this same drama? Mostly though I feel sadness and regret that I've lost the freedom to live the way I always planned without being bound by someone else's needs and expectations.

Now dear readers, this is the closest you'll ever see of me lying on the virtual psychoanalyst's couch on this blog. I usually go for something happier here. But, if we're sharing the "messy" places around us, this yin and yang sister relationship would have to be what I'd write about. What about you? Are you dealing with the same issues? If so, how do you manage?

Be sure to hop over the Gattina's place and see what other messes need tidying up.

(Image credit for yin yang symbol at the top of post: www.redbubble.com )

9 comments:

KittyHawk said...

You and I need to do something fun, for both of our sakes.

ChrisB said...

I can so relate to your post and your feelings at having responsibility for your sister. I feel very much the same about having the care of my mother, and as she actually lives with me I often feel stifled as I can't get away. I think this is one of the reasons I spend so much time on the computer and I try and take holidays whenever the opportunity presents itself and I can afford it.

Janis said...

Faye you are a good person who is doing the right thing by your sister. BUT.....you do not need to be a doormat..sometimes doing the right thing can make you feel trapped. My sister n I have a very different relationship also...we are like day n nite. She took over the care of my Mom and it was so appreciated by me because I lived in another state. I was the one who left the nest and went on to live in different states, the rest of my sibs still live in the same zip code and they go to my sister for everything...she has become their mother! She complains but I think she really does like it. Its funny how we can be so different from our siblings...thats how God intended for it to be...we are all unique in our own way. Thanks for sharing and happy FM

karisma said...

(((HUGS))) You are one amazing person Faye, not many people would do so much for someone else (sister or not) and considering you say you were not close, just shows the difference in the people you both became.People with big hearts are generally always prepared to serve others while others seem to have no problems using the generous ones. It is a great thing you are doing, not just for your sister but for yourself. Always remember though to keep your own needs on par rather than letting hers weigh you down. Some messes are unavoidable, thats for sure, but thats life I guess.

Now you asked about my daughters sewing and her designs. Here is a link to her blog (http://lightrenditions.blogspot.com) it started out as a photography blog but she has since moved on to all things crafty. If you scroll down through a few posts there are some of the dresses she has designed and made herself. Like the other kids she is pretty arty in all areas.

Sending you a big cyber hug. xxxoooxxx

The Church Lady said...

Faye, isn't it amazing how siblings can be so different? I admire your good nature and willingness to take care of your sister. She is family and you probably wouldn't have it any other way. It's good to vent every now and then.

Sayre said...

I think every family has its share of relationship messes. Our current and on-going mess is my stepson. A traumatic childhood (he lived with his mother across the country), a head injury - he is now afflicted with schizoid affective disorder. He's been Baker Acted several times. He's married to another dysfunctional perseon and they have an 8 year old daughter we babysit for a couple of times a week. The relationship is ALWAYS stressful and while I help when I can, I try to keep some distance just for my own sanity. I need to be here for MY son. I'm sure, eventually, that my granddaughter will come to live with us. Honestly, if that's going to happen, I'd rather it be sooner rather than later when even more damage will have been done. As it is, she's going to need a lot of therapy.

My husband confessed recently that he feels like moving away and not leaving a forwarding address. It is that stressful.

Faye said...

kittyhawk--yep! We need to get outta town. . .

chrisb--Agreed, thank goodness for that escape time on the computer--mostly Netflix and favorite blogs for me.

janis--I think some people just take to that caregiving role. My problem is that I never wanted it, nor do I have a great talent for it. In fact, when I was working the leadership committee that I supervised fired me as the "bereavement" chairman--was always forgetting to let them know when someone was sick or had died. . .

karisma--wish I could take credit for having a big heart, but truthfully it's duty. Thanks for CameraGirl's link. I'll check out her design work.

church lady--blogs are a great place to vent but sparingly! Even the most tolerant readers have their limits.

sayre--at least my "charge" is not a child. The need to step up is so much greater for a child who's just caught in their parents' mess. Like your husband's thoughts of leaving without a forwarding address. I just turn the phone off!

Pamela said...

whew... I'm sort of in that place, too with a SIL with Alzheimer's and an aging great aunt.

Theres a woman who lives with her mom at the retirement center where gr aunt fern lives. She told me tonight that she'd asked another sister to take some time with their aging mom (she has alzheimers and is an invalid) --- and her sister said absolutely NO.

Lane said...

This post has touched a nerve with me Faye. I've recently been caught up in 'messy', being the fixer upper for my parents. It can be a bit draining at times, especially as we are quite a 'yin and yang' family too.

I'm fascinated by the photos. You look so different - your sister looks serious and headstrong and you just as strong but in a quietly determined way.