Sunday, December 3, 2006


I am the proud sister of three younger women. Outside of my husband, they are the loves of my life. Sadly though, after living 3000 miles away from all of them for the last 10 years, I struggle to maintain a close connection to all three today. While the struggle has been successful with the two directly below me in age, the challenge to relate and communicate with the youngest one, J, remains strained. Twelve years apart in age, we are dramatically different in so many ways. We were raised under much separate regimes. Her regime, very common to the youngest, had a lot more money and as the baby of the family she was the product of a lot of indulgence. Plus, she effectively had 3 mothers within a 30-mile radius. Our mom, while very loving, is not at all smothering or overly involved. Her two older sisters took on that role instead. She couldn't make a move without someone voicing an opinion on it. Under no circumstances would I trade my life with hers. To add to the fun, she is about 5 years behind her actual age in maturity; on this point, everyone in the family agrees.

In an attempt to break free, she opted to get married to her first boyfriend after knowing him for less than six months (during this time, the boy didn't even live in the same state in which she lived), and then they immediately moved away to what could be the coldest spot in the continental United States. In making this move, she left behind her entire family (minus me), her new car, and her beloved horses. As so many predicted, she is now pregnant!!!

Oh, the fun we are having with this little piece of information. She called me to tell me her exciting news and I did my best to feign excitement. I felt especially obliged to be excited for her and support her decision to stick with the pregnancy when she relayed my mother's reaction. When J told our mom that she was pregnant, my mother responded only with, "Oh, that's cute." Can you hear the sarcasm in that response? After I got of the phone with her, I assumed the tantrum position, on the floor, legs and arms flailing, wailing like a banchee and then holding my breath til I turned blue. Not exactly cathartic, but the display has a direct approach that could be addressed by no other.

So, here I am the oldest of my siblings, trying to rid my body of meds to prepare for conception, carefully planning out our very limited financial resources, enduring wild moods, thoughts, and severe digestive distress as an effect of going off the meds that scare even me, all in the effort to provide the best possible conditions for a baby. I have been planning for years and years. The two sisters between J and me have the same ideas of responsibility when it comes to creating another human being. So, if all went well (what a giant "if" that is) I would be the first to bear my parents a grandchild. Being the first grandchild of my generation in my family, it all seemed so right, so logical. Why in the world did I ever think that logic would rule when this has yet to be the case in this lifetime? People joked that J would be the first to have a child and wouldn't that be funny if the youngest was the first to be a parent. Oh, how we laughed.

Ha, Ha, very funny mf! (Can't help but use Eddie Murphy's lines since I have none of my own. Can you name this reference?)

Did I mention that last night, J said her preferred form of entertainment now is getting drunk, setting up beer cans, and shooting at them with her own shotgun? I don't even know where to begin to comment on that one. Tough to relate to her when my preferred form of entertainment is listening to "This American Life" on NPR and reading books and essays by David Sedaris. Hmmm, genetics isn't everything.

The more I think about it, and trust me, boy do I think about it, the more I realize that being the first isn't so grand after all. I can't think of a single thing that was advantageous about being the first grandchild in my family. So if I keep reminding myself of what is important to me-a healthy, well supported baby with loving and united parents-then just maybe I can fight the bitterness that rises into my throat like bile. No doubt it will be difficult to keep this in mind if we turn out to have fertility problems and I have to go through more than the predicted time period without my meds. However, for now, I just have to beat it into my head. My oh-so-sensitive mother-in-law, upon hearing me relay my true feelings about my sister's pregnancy, instructed me that I HAD to be happy for my sister. As horns erupted from the top of my head I told her that if she wanted someone to be happy for J, then she had better do it herself, because I wouldn't be. So there! Wow, I get more and more mature everyday.


Am I a woman scientist? said...

First, the Eddie Murphy line is surely from "Raw", his stand-up special in the 1980's (?), although he has probably said it in every movie he's been in, except the Dr. Doolittle franchise.

Second, I am right there with you on the "be happy for pregnant others" thing... It is difficult to conjure up those happy feelings when getting pregnant yourself requires so much planning and effort.

And no, I don't think you are genetically obligated to be happy for every unplanned thing that a reckless sibling accomplishes. I have 2 younger sisters, and while they are not as reckless as what J sounds like, my two certainly have had their phases.

Jackie said...

We might be kindred spirits...

I am the oldest, with younger brothers by 7 and 10 years. I am 32. My baby brother has a son who will turn 6 in March. My brother doesn't have a job and bounces from one doomed relationship to another. The collection agencies have been after him, on and off since he turned 18 and was able to apply for a credit card.

I also love This American Life and David Sedaris! My husband and I download the podcasts and listen to them on our long drives to WI.

I hope that you will not have fertility problems as I imagine your return to the preferred cocktail should take the least amount of time possible.

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