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What is the one word or phrase that immediately cheers you up when you hear it?

“Hi, it’s Barb.” Hearing from my sister always cheers me up. She is always cheerful, and has had so many bad times in her life and has survived them without anger, why me’s, or resentment. She still has a smile for everyone and kind words. She still has faith in God, despite the things that have been dumped on her, seemingly unfairly. One person shouldn’t have had so many challenges.

She can relate to the problems I’ve had, even though hers and mine have been quite different. Her empathy and her positive outlook are always welcome and she makes me feel better just by being herself. We’re open with one another and nothing is off the table, because we love and trust each other.

It’s funny — both of us had the same parents, and quite honestly, they weren’t the best in the world. We were never harmed physically, but I think both of us would agree that we just didn’t seem that important to them. Our dad died when I was 13 and my sister was 7, so she has little memory of him, and mine are selected moments. He was a workaholic, kind and generous with friends and well-liked, but not present enough as a father. Our mother was more dependent on us, in turn, than we were on her. She was not equipped to be the head of a household and make good decisions. When I was a teenager she asked for my advice about things, and I did most of the housekeeping, because she didn’t care much for it.

When I left at 19 to go to Scotland for my university education after two years at a college near home, I was glad to leave. Not that many years ago, I learned that my sister felt the same way. Due to our large gap in age, we didn’t communicate well as children, and it took becoming adults for us to get along well. Fortunately, by the time my sister was in middle school, my mother had moved to Florida, where her mom and dad lived, so she had someone close by to help organize her life.

The reason I’ve related all this is that both of us didn’t have a great upbringing, but not awful. Not being valued as a child can have lasting effects. As we have talked more about ourselves, especially since my mother passed away about 5 years ago, we’ve shared how we both have felt that insecurity and lack of self-confidence that not being well-parented causes. She, too, was happy to leave home, but went in a different direction than I, working and getting married young, and having children much earlier than I did.

We’re both grandparents now, her first of course, and we’re much better parents than ours were (as were our husbands). Fortunately, we were both determined to be close to our children and raise them with love and understanding — and strong, Christian, moral values. We are both involved grandparents and appreciate how our children are raising their offspring.

So, maybe I should give her a call and say “Hi Barb, it’s me”.

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