Thursday, December 2, 2010

My sister

I was 12 1/2 when she was born.

My mom and I came up with reasons they shouldn't have had kids. It wouldn't be fair to the child. It wouldn't be fair to my brother and I, even our stepsister. Little did I know but would discover later that my mom wanted to have a child with my stepdad.


My stepmom and I, only fifteen years apart, did not get along at first. At all. My mom did not and does not help.

But that's a post all of its own.

Let me just say that my stepmama and I are good friends now and she doesn't preach to me at all. My dad only ever mentions anything if I bring up religion first, like the time I told him we were leaving the church. Oh how happy he was, but he didn't quite get the whole story.

Dad--I don't like yours either.

I couldn't bring myself to say that, though. It's unnecessary given all the bullshit he has to deal with (his stepdaughter--let's just say "meth addict" "mother of three babies to three daddies" "abandoned her first two by moving halfway across the country to be with a new boyfriend" "had the good sense to at least adopt out her third" "smuggled in her unbelievably abusive last boyfriend from mexico so he could beat the shit out of her and her children again," etc. I have no clean or good words for her--to hell with compassion, it doesn't work on a sociopath). He and my stepmama have been granted full custody of their very small grandchildren. My dad is of not-so-good health and struggles with high anxiety (if not worse) as I do.

His religion gives him a semblance of comfort I will not take away, and as long as he's cool with me I'm cool with him--though omg "lisa, what is this 'agnostic' thing on your blog?" were uttered by them both.


Do I digress? I digress.

They both had an incredibly difficult time with my conversion to the LDS church--pamphlets and shit everywhere. But they were still pretty quiet, except for the time my father finally couldn't take it anymore and hissed to me over the phone "Where are the golden plates now, Lisa?"

Eric told me later to ask him where the...shit what was it. Oh well. Point: there's suspicious crap everywhere. Ark of the Covenant? I dunno. I'm a bit rusty.

And the time I married Eric. My dad wanted to come to the temple, and as per the story, my stepmom convinced him not to. I'm both still saddened by this and a little angry, but I understand it too. Someday I hope to rectify this to the extent we are able.

But besides the religious decorations that litter their walls and the insistence on listening to Christian radio and all that stuff, they're quiet. I cringe but respect that--but it's hard to when my sister comes to me with these stories of what she has to deal with. She's finished, too. Eric says I need to watch my step. She's only 16. But I'm her sister. Where's the line? I only want to give her support. To tell her she's not laden with sin as they all tell her she is. To tell her nothing's wrong with her simply because prayer, much as she's tried, hasn't worked. To be the only one to tell her that it's okay that she either doesn't want to or can't or finds speaking in tongues creepy. That she's not a slut because she slept with someone. But she does need to come to her own conclusions. I just want to be the person in her life that tells her she's a good person and a human being, that it's okay. That I still love her. That she can still be successful. To trust herself. To give her information, too. And perhaps that's where I cross the line.

The thing is, the harder they push the further she goes away. She was always a great girl, "obedient" if you will. Respectful. I set the bar, and that sucks. Nobody should be put up to someone else's bar. But more and more she's rebelling. Inside she's one of the best people, but they're stifling that by insisting and pushing and shoving and figuring that berating her is the best way to go--and I get that some of it is just getting rid of their own sadness and fear and rage, but it's not working. They get counseling for the grandkids, but I don't know that they have it for themselves. For my sister. So it pisses me off, much as I can understand where they come from. But understanding isn't condoning.

It's hard because they're under so much stress. But she's suffering for it, too.

So it's so hard to not cross whatever line Eric sees. She's being taught the Earth is 6000 years old and she suspects it's bullshit. She wants to know about evolution but is largely kept from learning about it.

This, they believe, will save them all.

She's interested in biology, and she and I both wanted her to come to my class with me a few times and each time she wasn't able to make it. I've my suspicions. They'd rather send her to a 12 week photography program in Montana. They're scared, but at the expense of her future. She has a fire, but it's hardly kindled.

I remember rather well what it's like to be sixteen. It's only been slightly over a decade. I think that gives me somewhat an advantage in understanding where she's coming from, that some of the things she says will change given time. She's still rather immature, but that's the age. That's the inexperience. I don't fault her for it. I give her my opinion on occasion. I don't condone everything she says (some of the stuff she says scares the shit out of me--things not every teenage girl says), but I love her despite. And she knows that. She knows she can tell me anything. She knows I won't always agree. She knows I love her mom and our dad and that I try to help her see their side of things. She spends the weekend at our home when things are too much. She knows we'll come get her at the drop of a hat.

It's been difficult, though. I feel as if my closeness with her has come at a price of my closeness with her mom. It's a rough place to be when I want to give her a sanctuary both in my home and in my heart but am asked by our parents to be a good example and to steer her right. I don't know that they completely understand that their right isn't necessarily my right. I haven't yet suggested that her rather mild rebellion is symptomatic of the shit she has to endure at home, if not directly than as a consequence of her fucked up other half-sister and the addition of her dysfunctional but lovely niece and nephew in the home. She tries so hard.

I understand her parents' dilemma. I do. But she suffers too.

And if they're not careful, she won't fulfill her great potential. And all of this bullshit will happen again and again.

In fact, all my sis wants for Christmas are things that she can use after she moves out of the house (the minute she turns 18, she says). Today I looked around for things and found a great deal on a coffee maker--I texted her mama to make sure this wouldn't be a duplicate.

"What're you getting for [her]," I asked. "I don't want to duplicate."

"You mean you're getting her a muzzle too?"

I get it. The girl has a mouth on her, whatever. All normal kids do and I get her mom's exasperation. My daughter is pushing 8 and god help me when she turns 16. I try to tell my sister to be nice so coming over to my house won't be an ordeal, but she's tired and can't help but fight back. It's the only way she knows how to do it.

"Lol," I replied. "I just found this great deal on a coffee maker. Good?"

I wandered around Target for a good ten minutes longer before I decided to bail, figuring I could return it (or keep it for when ours dies--this one is programmable, after all!).  At checkout, I receive a phone call. I checked the voice mail on my way to the car.

"Is this for your sister when she moves out, because really I'd rather get her a muzzle for her mouth."

It sounded beyond annoyed. Angry. Tired.

I don't know.

Being a 29 year old sister of a 16 year old girl with too much shit on her shoulders is a rough place to be in. Especially when I know her parents have exponentially too much shit on their own shoulders (i don't know how they do it--I'm not entirely convinced they are) and need support, too (my stepmom has called me multiple times in the past in tears). Especially when her mom and I have a really sketchy past--and I really would rather not go back there. I love them both. I don't judge either of them. I can only imagine what their lives must be like due to the severe selfishness her older, tweaked out daughter.

I want to be there for all of them, but I'm not sure anyone is there for my sister. Not enough.

More and more I feel as if I'm being kept from her, and that pisses me off and scares me. A lot.

I just don't know what to do.


  1. You sound like an awesome person and the sister anyone would love! I would just keep being available to her and go with your gut. She needs someone who understands her and loves her, no matter what.

    There's no reason you can't be there for everyone, and if one of them shuts you out for being there for the other person, it's their loss.

  2. My husband is in the same boat. His younger brothers are being forced into participating in all things Mormon by his mother, and it's kind of difficult to find a way to say we support them and their discordant views about religion and basically everything without pushing their mother too far and causing more problems in the family. They're living with her parents at the moment and none of the adults in that house has any good parenting skills beyond what what's necessary to keep them alive - food, shelter, clothing, medical care when called for. There is absolutely no emotional support or maturity. It makes me ill. My heart aches for them.