THE FIRST DRAFT: "Jeannine"
The Brother-Sister Bond
By Dan Roberts
We were never perfect, no one can really claim to be so, but we were hospitable toward one another. At times, we could even be amiable, and on a rare occasion, such as a successful dance recital or a great game pitched in a little league baseball event, we could even be proud of one another. Yet these good tidings never lasted more than a few days. Our games of tic-tac toe or kickball with our friends would go from friendly backyard, Little House on the Prairie type moments to screaming matches in a matter of days. My memories from childhood however can be unreliable at times, but it is not my childhood years, which I plan to discuss. During the era of adolescence would be the time when the relationship between my sister and I would change. The hardships faced during these years would not only separate my sister and I and drive a wedge between our family, but they would also force me to take a look at who I was, and why I did not have the strength to change in order to be a better brother. This failure on my part would turn memories from years ago such as "Help me down from the swing, please," into "Why didn't you do anything when you found out he raped me!"
My parents told me that failure was not the end of the world. I agreed with them at the time, and even now I feel that such a generic solution to childhood anxiety still holds some merit. The confidence I held in this statement, however, would prove to be comfort in a half-truth. My parents never told me that my failure could end the world of another. It was not until I realized that point many years later that I could understand the level of incompetence I displayed when dealing with my sister in our adolescent years.
In an article published in The Globe entitled "Another Way," author Melodie Davis makes that statement that; "Brothers and sisters can help each other through rocky times in growing up." This simplistic statement was accurate at describing the relationship I used to have with my younger sibling. Moral and emotional supports are the two most important aspects of the brother-sister relationship. For a time, I provided both to my sister. I was a jack of all trades in my youth. If she were being punished and grounded from dessert, I would always be there to sneak her a cupcake to take some of the edge off of the solitary confinement. When our parents would go to work, I could fill her lonely hours of the day better than anyone. Even when we fought, I would always forgive her, even if I knew it was not her fault. I could never argue with her. However, as we grew older, the problems that I saw her tormented by changed. I could no longer solve her problems with pastries and card games, and if I did not have those solutions at my disposal, I was useless to her, and she knew it. She felt like I had abandoned her and I could never argue with her.
She began hanging out with the "wrong crowd," and my family and I could see the changes in her personality. At the tender age of fourteen she was smoking, drinking, and experimenting with drugs that had names that were beyond my powers of pronunciation. She was ruining her life, and no counselor or psychiatrist could stop her actions. My parents exhausted their resources, their advice, their very life energy, but never their love when dealing with my sister. My mother and father exemplified the values that they had worked so hard to instill in all of their children. However, even they could not quell the festering flame that seemed to exist within my sister. Soon, it was my turn to try and understand the pain that had built up inside of her soul. I was always the dependable child and I could always help my sister through anything. Yet somewhere along the path of life, my sister had grown up faster than I had. She had seen things and experienced a life that I only knew about through the movies. I could no longer help her no matter how hard I tried. She acted as though she knew I would not be able to understand her, but I could see in her ryes that she hoped I could. Yet her problems were beyond my comprehension. I could not help my sister.
I had never failed and I refused to let this be the first time. Instead of learning from my mistake in dealing with my sister the first time, I masked my damaged pride with angry barrages of statements that accused her of falsifying her issues for attention. I accused her of being jealous of the attention I had received for my success sin school. I just could not come to grips with the fact that she could not use my help anymore. I refused to believe that she had grown and evolved before I had. By blinding myself to my sister's problems, I developed a false sense of security and I managed to restore a small part of my pride. From that point on, when I was forced to deal with the emotional baggage that she brought from the outside into our home, I would simply tell her that whatever she was going through, it would not be the end of the world.
Seeking to re-enforce the shield of ignorance that I had masterfully constructed to guard my ego, I began to read any book or essay I could find on sibling rivalries. I yearned for anything that would tell that I was correct in the new philosophy that I had adopted toward the relationship between my sister and I. As my research progressed, I became steadfast in the knowledge that sibling rivalry was generated from jealousy and could lead to arguments or emotional tensions that could last for months, and in many cases, years (Dowshen 2). Statements, such as this one published in a sibling rivalry analysis in Kid's Health, helped me to sleep at night. They told me I was right and that my sister was not going through any of the tragedies that she claimed she had gone through, she was simply looking for attention.
The maintenance of my emotional façade continued for almost a year and a half. Nothing could break the barrier that I had constructed and I was determined to keep it that way. However the energies that I was expending on myself were detracting from the energies that went into the bond that existed between my sister and I. I was failing to maintain the relationship. I was working so hard to keep the same mindset that I had always had, that I failed to realize that everything else was changing. The greatest sign of these changes came when my sister told me that she had been raped. She did not want to discuss the details of the event and I was not about to press for them either. This type of situation was a far cry from what we had been through together as children. I refused to believe the story that she told. Apparently it had taken place about two months before she had actually confessed the event to me, and she said there was nothing she could do about it. I was a different story however. To this day I do not know if she wanted me to physically seek revenge against her assailant, or just comfort her with words that would bring us back to our youth and that only I could say. Yet I did neither. My defenses were breaking and the reality that I had worked so hard to keep was slowly transforming into insanity. In one final attempt to salvage my ignorance and my pride, I told her that I did not believe her. It was the worst mistake I had ever made and to this day I am still searching for a way to earn her forgiveness.
Everything changes. It is a trite and clichéd statement. It is also a lesson that I learned the hard way. My failure to conform to my sister's needs damaged a trust and love that took fourteen years to form. However, even through my shortcomings, my sister still managed to uphold her aspect of the bargain we made as children, the bargain that accompanies any brother sister relationship. By shoeing me the evils that the world could fall prey to, she protected me from succumbing to the same temptations that had altered her personality. She protected from the full force of these negatives, but educated me about their existence as well. I did not realize this until a short time ago. My sister was just waiting for me to "grow up" (Schimpf 1).