I have 2 sisters, and we’re all very different. There is around 4 years between each of us with me in the middle. I guess we were always different, but it seems more stark now. I think I have mentioned my older sister in an earlier blog and this one is not about her.
My younger sister is a Specialist Cardiac Nurse, she is the only one left near home, and is the only carer for my mum who is in a Nursing Home and has senile dementia. I am very grateful that my sister has made the choice she has, and appears to have no desire to move away from her familiar surroundings. She has a great sense of duty, and this I believe keeps her near mum and her husband’s mum.
My sister has done very well considering our upbringing and her very early departure from secondary school with no qualifications. She left school at 15 (with the secret agreement of headmistress and my mum) and started work as a domestic in ITU at the local hospital. Later, before having children, she was a receptionist in the pathology lab. I think she was in her early thirties with young children and a very difficult and controlling, jealous husband when she embarked on an access course which would give her a chance to apply for nurse training. I think I envied her that opportunity at the time, as I too wasn’t qualified to train and had gone in different directions with no real idea and was stuck being the breadwinner in my previous marriage. As it turned out, a year later the company I worked for went into liquidation, and I found myself in a position to completely transform my life.
So, following in her footsteps, after leaving my husband and moving home (something I’d been planning for a while), I embarked on my nurse training. This was in the 90’s, so Project 2000 (which did not have (and maybe still doesn’t have) a good press). My younger sister, a year ahead of me became a general nurse and I became a mental health nurse. Both of us had initially wanted to be midwives, so a lot changed for us both during our 3 years training. My sister climbed through the ranks of nursing, eventually ending up as a Sister in Cardiac Care and then subsequently a nurse specialist.
My mental health training took me through an acute ward, then working psycho therapeutically in a day hospital in Kent, and ending in North Devon where I managed a Care Home for Severely Mentally Ill patients. In my time since qualifying I’d also trained in Transactional Analysis, and undertook several years of personal therapy during this time. I know that it is this that has caused our differentness to be much more now than it was 20 years ago. The sad thing is, I don’t think my family really understand what changed and why I’d changed.
During the last 10 years, we’ve had little contact, in fact there was a massive falling out in 1999 after I stepped out of my long-held role (since early childhood) or family Rescuer. It was only 18 months ago that we were back in contact due to my Dad’s deteriorating health. Over the following year, we kept in touch and saw each other when I was back in the UK (a rare occurrence) and we tolerated each other. When Dad died in March we had 2 weeks together, doing stuff together and sharing his care, and this brought us closer again in that time. As the weeks moved on, I would call or email, and again we’d politely pass the time of day and share a little bit of news, but nothing intimate. When I called it felt odd, my sense was that she felt under pressure (having not been expecting my call) and her listening skills (for a nurse) are pretty dire. So, I cut the calls and decided I’d email, as that seemed more tolerable.
We visited in October, and met her for a meal, taking Mum with us. It was “okay”, but we are so different. Appearance and superficial things are very important to her, to the point that she had dressed to impress and the weather was wrong for that. I email her a day or so ago, and when I looked back to see when our last email was, it predated our meal together in the UK, over 7 weeks ago. So, 10 years out of contact became a habit.
Her response to my email sounds angry. She doesn’t consciously go for me, but she expresses anger at the “friends” of mums who promised to visit and haven’t done and says, “Do I sound bitter?” She also talks about her guilt at not taking mum out to lunch on Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve instead. I feel sad for her that she feels this way, as she and I both know that mum really won’t notice. I called mum on her birthday the other day, and she didn’t know it was her birthday, this despite more visitors and cards arriving. I wish my sister could let go of the guilt and know that she is doing an absolutely fine and bloody awful job caring for our mum, whilst her sisters have upped sticks and left.
In my reply I acknowledged how pissed off I would be in her shoes, and that I would be furious with me and shouting very loudly. I am not sure how she will accept that, she may think it patronising. Anyhow, I am very grateful she hasn’t allowed herself to make the choices I have allowed myself to take. I am grateful that she is different to me and has a strong sense of duty. I am proud of her that she has been so successful despite leaving school with no qualifications, and I really wouldn’t want to be living her life.
So, here I sit, in my warm and cosy home, with my warm and cosy man, peace and quiet and no bitterness. I am very lucky.
Please close the gate and keep the madness out.
Kathy the sane.