This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poking the Green-eyed Monster with a Stick

Over the summer my sister came to live with us for about 2 months. Her husband was deployed in Iraq and she was alone, caring for a 17-month-old daughter, and feeling overwhelmed and lonely. My sister is significantly younger than me and we hadn't resided together in the same house for almost 25 years. It is safe to say I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I jumped in all the same. I enthusiastically decorated the baby's room: finally I was able to create a pink paradise for a baby while not actually having to feed, clothe, change, and entertain a baby! It was so much fun creating a warm, inviting, child-like, and feminine room for my niece and I couldn't wait for them to come. Next I moved on to my sister's room. With equal love I moved the furniture around, purchased new bedding, a reading lamp, a vase for fresh flowers. I envisioned a summer filled with long walks with the baby in the stroller, my daughter riding her bike up ahead, and my sister and I bonding in ways we were never able to do when we were younger.

It didn't turn out quite that way.

We did actually take one walk together, the baby in the stroller, my daughter riding her bike up ahead, but the bonding talk was more of a monologue by my sister of how much she hated the Marine Corps and specifically President Bush for taking her husband away from her. I wasn't surprised by the topic of the conversation: I had been hearing this same talk since she arrived and even well before her arrival when we would chat on the phone. It's not that I don't understand my sister's pain, I simply don't understand how she thought things would turn out marrying, and then having a child with, a man who was in the marines. It's his job and he's going to work. She knew that before the first date, the first kiss, certainly before the wedding.

My sister was not happy at my house. I attributed this unhappiness to the fact that her husband was at war and she was worried and sleep deprived. Probably all those reasons are contributing factors, but I now think the reason my sister wasn't happy at my house is because she was mad at me: mad because my husband was home every evening at 6, mad because my child slept through the night, mad because my child could feed herself, clothe herself, and entertain herself, mad because of all the free time I had, mad because of all the space I had in my house, mad because I wasn't worried and anxious for my husband's safety.

Some people would say all that "mad" is really jealousy.

I didn't recognize my sister's jealousy for what it was at the time. Blithely I regaled her with tales of how much I like my life, my marriage, the age my daughter is at, the free time I have. I have searched my heart again and again to try to learn if maybe I really did sense she was jealous and was rubbing her face in it...I wasn't. I don't begrudge her an ounce of happiness and it really didn't occur to me that she would begrudge me anything. After all, we all make our own choices, right?

The visit ended rather abruptly when my sister and husband engaged in their first, last, and only discussion about politics. To say that my sister is passionate about politics is a huge understatement. She is obsessive about her candidates, still young enough to believe that she can change someone's mind by arguing with them, and when you combine that with the slow burn she had been doing while living with us all summer you have a recipe for combustion that put the 4th of July fireworks to shame.

The fight, from my perspective, went something like this: My sister tried to convince Steve that her candidate was better than his. Steve said he really didn't have a candidate, he didn't like any of the people running. My sister took offense at his laissez-faire attitude toward something about which she is passionate and figured if he didn't like anyone anyway he might as well vote for her guy. Steve, seeing how upset my sister was getting, began enjoying pushing her buttons and became more adamant that he would never like her candidate. My sister began to get personal, insulting my husband for serving in the army only during peacetime (?) and proclaiming her desire that he should get drafted so her husband could come home. Steve took offense about the besmirchment of his service record and suggested that she hadn't served her country at all and was just sitting home safe and comfy while others did all the dirty work. She freaked. She gathered the baby. She gathered her things. She packed her car. She left.

So much for bonding.

My sister and I have had several stilted, polite conversations since that fateful day, but things are definitely not the same. I am being punished by not having pictures of my niece sent to me and by her ignoring my daughter. I am punishing her by not calling and putting all this behind us. I know I have to be the one to make the first move, and possibly the second, third, fourth, and fifth. I have tried, in a lukewarm fashion, to bring up the subject with her so we can resolve things before the holidays arrive and we are forced together in the pressure cooker called my mom's kitchen. She isn't making anything easy for me and I don't think I am really committed yet to conceding anything because in my heart of hearts I still think of it as her fault. But assigning blame won't get me any access to my niece, won't mend the relationship, won't make the holidays go more smoothly, and won't bring my sister back to me. I'm going to have to apologize.

After all, I'm older and I should know better.

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