My family are a long time supporter of a certain UK woodland charity. My father bought a membership in my name when I was a little girl, and as part of that membership a tree was sponsored in my name in a local wood. We went to see that wood back then – there were no plaques or anything to mark the sponsorship of course but still I thought of it as my wood. Back then the saplings had only just been planted and it wasn’t really a wood just yet. Yesterday, I went to visit my wood for the first time in a long time, and was amazed at how the trees have grown and filled out, that field of tiny saplings transformed into dense woodland. It was so very different from how I remembered it, which was as small and sparse. It was amazing. And a remarkable reminder of the passage of time. (I wish I had a picture of it then for comparison, but I don’t think we even had a digital camera back then!)
The Thursday before last, my father phoned me. He said he had some good news and proceeded to let me know that my sister’s boyfriend had asked him earlier that day for permission to ask my sister to marry him. I probably shocked my dad by not responding in joy, but in bursting out into tears at that news. I have known for a while that this would happen, wanted it to happen because I knew how much my sister wanted it, but still there is something like grief that formed as I felt my sister moving further and further away from me. The fact that it was actually happening immediately overwhelmed me. My sister, my best friend, and the person I trust and love the most in this world, would get married and start a family of her own and where could I fit in? It’s already so hard to see her, she is always so busy, and I have missed her. Don’t get me wrong I was happy, but also fearful. I struggled to explain my reaction to my dad without giving too much away, trying to protect myself and keep my most ugly feelings unspoken, and in the end laughed it off, made some stupid joke or the other. My father swore me to secrecy – only he, my mom and myself knew and needed to know so that my sister wouldn’t find out. We spent a week waiting and wondering when my sister’s boyfriend would do it and desperate to tell someone, anyone.
This weekend I went home. My sisters cat was staying at my parents as my sister and her boyfriend are, in fact, away. I wanted to see the cat and yes, I wanted to be with my family. It was my sister’s birthday on Sunday and I was sure that the proposal would happen this weekend. I thought we should be together when it happened? I don’t know why. Saturday passed by uneventfully, lazying at home with the cat after a long , boring and thankfully uneventfully trip down to my parents. On Sunday, the weather was on the edge of a storm but we went out anyway, to my woods, for a lovely refreshing walk. It was a little damp and muddy but beautiful out there. My wood is very pretty.
My mom was grumpy and my dad talkative and the cat all over me and I was having a nice time. But I was still wondering what was going on with my sister and it was weighing on me.
Sunday afternoon, around 5pm, my sister sent though a picture of her left hand with a beautiful diamond ring on it. We were all pretty amazed that it had finally happened, having started to wonder if my sister’s boyfriend had chickened out. Relief, happiness, excitement, took over. We phoned my sister and her boyfriend to get the details (my sister’s boyfriend surprised us all by how perfect his timing was and how smoothly he did it. It sounded like a beautiful proposal.) Then my mom and dad started phoning family and friends to get the news out. My parents were overjoyed. I was very happy too, but again there was that shadow, that feeling of being left out, left behind.
I had to go back home then and I had a long journey. The trains were disrupted so I had two changes to make, including a walk to another station, then my final train was delayed, arriving late, then sitting in the station for ages as they couldn’t find the driver (!!) And then, driver located, sitting even longer due to signalling problems. We finally set off about 45 minutes after timetable and the journey was long. I got into my city at 9pm, bored, fed up and thoroughly exhausted. I picked up fast food and then scarfed half of it huddled on a seat in the station, then booked a taxi home. I was so glad when I finally got home, just before 10pm. I know public transport is safer, but next time I need to go home I am driving. I feel like I spent the majority of my weekend travelling rather than with my family and cat, and it was very costly to use the trains too. Anyway, I tried to sleep but couldn’t and woke up late and thoroughly unmotivated to go to work.
I admit to maybe a schmidge of jealously – my sisters life is panning out so differently and so much better than my own. Again, that dark shadow, that feeling of being left behind.
But it’s mostly the loss that gets me. My big sister has a life all of her own now, has for a while really, and a huge part of that is separate from me. I know it’s normal and I try to accept it but I miss her. We have always been close. And I have always needed her. But more and more as the years pass I am having to learn to live without her, without her support, without her propping me up. I realise, too late, how dependent I am on her. I don’t want to be needy and annoying but I realise, too late, that I can’t help it. She is my everything. Now she is engaged and I am so happy for her, because she has wanted that for years and I am so happy she found someone nice who makes her happy and whom she wants to spend the rest of her life with. But I am also sad and filled with a complex sense of loss. It’s been a long time since we were children and so much has changed. I have found adulthood difficult and I am feeling so very untethered with my family far away – all of them , my parents, my sister, living in the same area but me in another city – and so…left out. I wish I could talk to my sister about it, I long for her reassurance, but I don’t want to rain on her parade, so I keep it to myself, I will keep it to myself. Like so many other things, honestly. Its very strange being so close to my family, but yet so far.