It was years ago, back in the days when my having a few minutes’ privacy for a shower was no more than a dream.
Our middle daughter toddled into the bathroom, toy phone in her pudgy little hands, and handed it to me.
“Hullo?” I said, turning to her with a soapy, “It’s my sister.”
Her tiny eyebrows danced over her twinkling eyes.
“Which one?” she giggled.
It was a moment of grace, one of those flashes you get now and then of your own good fortune. Sisters are some of the best good stuff life has to offer.
There are sister circles here, of course, plenty of them — some with recognizable surnames like Wehrli and Beidelman and Drendel, others whose connections and married names make their relation to one another less obvious. I like to suppose that they cherish one another every bit as much as I do my many female siblings. The truth is, there is no greater blessing.
Nobody knows you like your sister does. She has seen your innermost dreams and disappointments, joys and sorrows. Her understanding of you and who you are means she’s never fooled by that brave front you put up when you’re feeling anything but brave. She gets your jokes, even the dumbest ones, and knows you don’t mind if she still doesn’t laugh at them. When you hit that rough patch back when the kids were teens, it was her shoulder you leaned on, and left stained with a few tears. She hasn’t forgotten that one time when you took her favorite sweater without asking, and returned it horribly stained with spaghetti sauce. She pretends to have forgotten vowing that she would never, ever forgive you for it.
The gift of sisterhood is a lifelong thing. I was reminded of this when our sister paper, the SouthtownStar, ran a lovely little feature this week. It spotlights the Pagoria sisters, the oldest of whom is Connie Faso, my mother-in-law’s mom, whose 95th birthday was last week. The baby, Curly (a nod to the headful of blond ringlets that was her crown in childhood; her real name is Andretta) turns 90 in December.
The “girls,” as they don’t mind being called, live within arm’s length of one another, just as they have for nearly a century. Curly — still regarded as bit of a maverick for doing so — several decades ago moved a few blocks away. She’s been forgiven by the circle, whose members still see each other nearly every day.
“If you see one of us, you see four of us,” Connie said.
Notwithstanding the ladies’ remarkable longevity, this shouldn’t be an anomaly, but I suspect it is. Familial estrangement is a sad, and all too common, phenomenon.
It might happen over a squabble somebody started years ago, the particulars of which nobody really remembers anymore. It might be over that antique dresser one sibling snagged before it could be brought home by the person who’d staked a claim to it, without letting quite everybody know. It might be over control of an aging parent’s estate, or a family vacation home.
It’s nearly always sad. Life is short — even when it spans upward of nine decades. It’s a sin to squander any of it chewing on a silly grudge.
“We never tried to outdo each other. There is no jealousy, no rivalry. That’s the worst thing in the world,” Connie said. “We didn’t always agree, but it was nothing that was so serious that we didn’t forgive one another.”
Sisters are that way, when we’re lucky. I’m spending next weekend with several of mine, at the cottage we share on Lake Michigan. Alas, we no longer live within arm’s length of each other, so we’re fortunate not to have suffered a falling-out over the old place.
I can’t wait.
Connie doesn’t have access to the internet, so my sister-in-law brought her a paper copy of the story. I hope you can get online; you can find the story here: bit.ly/17rloy4.