On Tuesday night I had the privilege of accompanying my clever sister, Loren (or as I should now address her, Dr Loren!) to her graduation dinner, celebrating her momentous achievement of becoming a Veterinary Surgeon.
I’m not as close to my sisters as I would like. Though, it hasn’t always been this way….
Upon rereading my journals recently I was struck with how many mentions I made of Loren as a sounding board for my relational woes and successes. It would seem that near every day after school I would gate-crash her room and regale her with the tales of the days interactions and flirtations, and she would patiently listen, offering her wise conclusions in response. I have significant suspicions that I did not capably return the favour of being the patient listening sister in return, and in hindsight, I hold many regrets over that.
Fast forward to university days, when I was now happily married to Dave and studying my third year at Monash University. Loren came to join the party and commenced her journey towards independence and identity formation with a bang, passionately engaging in scientific debates about the origins of the universe and other weighty matters. Unfortunately, the science background of our Christian schooling did little to prepare us both for the onslaught against our shallowly held assumptions, and Loren, when presented with persuasive and substantially educated opposing arguments, followed the white rabbit and left a lot of what we held in common behind. I, on the other hand, tended more towards blind faith to my already held convictions and just assumed that the opponents were misinformed or wrong.
I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of rejection that came along with Loren forging her own path. Forever it had seemed like we were two peas in a pod, thinking similarly about issues and convictions, finishing each others sentences about ideas and jokes…. and then… it was like ‘that person’ wasn’t there anymore. A more guarded, cautious, ‘slow to be swept away’ person was revealed underneath and instead of celebrating and embracing that, I was quick to condemn and respond out of fear. I wrote a clumsy letter expressing my anxious thoughts, but the received tone was judgmental and self-righteous instead. Our relationship suffered for a while and as a result, I missed out on sharing a lot of my sister’s journey of identity discovering and failed to reciprocate the supportive sounding board that had been offered to me for all those years. If one could only turn back time…
Apologies can get a relationship back on track, but they cannot recover lost opportunities for connection during formative moments. These days we have a positive and encouraging sisterly relationship, though being in such different life stages and parts of Melbourne, we rarely get to just ‘hang out’ or do life together. I do regret that. In the early days of newborn fog, Loren has always made an effort to come and spend a day with me, helping me get through the baby blues days and entertaining the kids while I adjust.
Last night, watching my beautiful sister surrounded by her close friends and exuding the joy of one who has attained a phenomenal achievement, I was so ready to be the one celebrating her for a change. She has invested years of dedication to her studies, even through setbacks and challenges, and long hours in rotations and placements, even to the point of travelling to the UK to complete a hospital experience. The empathy and care that she has always directed towards every animal that crosses her path is so evident in her approach as a Vet.
I’m so thankful that the chapter on our sibling story hasn’t been completed yet. I only hope that we can continue to grow closer as the years wear on, sharing experiences, family and life together. I’m so proud of you, Loren, and thankful for your unmistakable imprint on my identity. The dud relationships you saved me from, the patience with which you endured my endless stories about myself, the passion with which you approach your existence… You are an incredible woman and I’m honoured to call you my sister.
(As for you, dearest Hali, our story will take at least another blog post or two… I’ll save that for another day!)