Tomorrow, my older sister turns 48.
Sharon is actually my first cousin in my adoptive family. Her mother was my mother’s older sister and died of a brain tumor when Sharon was only 8. Sharon’s father, Robert, was left with Sharon and her younger brother Mark. Older brother Bobby had left to serve in the armed forces.
Several years later, Uncle Robert married Helena. She brought a number of children of her own. And, she was mentally ill (or so everyone in the family says). Sharon’s father died of cirrosis of the liver several years later and Sharon and Mark were left with Helena.
I was 8 when the phone rang late one night at my parents’ house. It was Sharon. Helena had held a knife to her throat and threatened her life because she wasn’t doing a good job washing dishes. We had all known about the physical abuse for years but being the good New England family that we are, noone acknowledged the abuse nor did anything about it. But, now was the point of no return. My father went to pick Sharon up and brought her to our house. Soon thereafter, they became legal guardians and Sharon was my new and instant older sister. Mark went to live with my Aunt Bernie and Uncle Eddie, and the siblings have spent many years recovering from their abused youth.
I remember that we fought incessantly when Sharon moved in since I was no longer the oldest sibling. It took years for me to appreciate her and she became my confidant. Sharon was the first family member to whom I came out of the closet.
I was visiting that day in 2002 when I said to her: “I have something important to tell you.”
“Either you are getting married or you’re gay,” she responded.
“Well, I ain’t getting married.”
“Good for you – I’ve always known,” she reported. “I remember finding your magazines with shirtless actors under your bed. You also liked The Carpenters way too much.”
So that was that.
She came to visit me in Santa Fe two years ago during my awful break-up with my ex. I don’t talk with her nor see her enough. She has two lovely sons (my nephews) who are in the early to mid-20s. She went through a divorce several years ago and has a great boyfriend – but swears she will never marry again.
It’s great to have an “instant” sister and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish her a very Happy Birthday! As much as I may complain about things in my own life, I did not have the challenges and abuse she faced. And, she has conquered. May we all be more like Sharon…