As I’ve said many times before, my sister and I don’t get along. Yesterday was another good example of why I don’t like to be around her.
My mother made a big dinner for Father’s Day. After dinner, I was sitting in the kitchen talking to my mom while she put food away. My sister was washing dishes, and suddenly asked me to help dry. Now, while we’d been sitting around earlier, I had made several long trips to the bathroom. I was pale. My mother commented later about how bad I looked. My eyes were puffy and half closed. While the rest of the family had talked animatedly in the living room before dinner, I had been laying there half asleep, barely saying a word. So it was pretty obvious I wasn’t feeling well. And yet she was asking me to dry dishes. I didn’t want to start a fight, so I just stood up and dried a couple of dishes. I did it slowly, careful not to drop anything, careful not to fall when I turned to put each one down. And after a few, so there just a little space in the dish rack, we all went into the dining room for dessert. I figured it was good enough. It was more than I should have done.
After dessert I didn’t even bother going to the kitchen. My dad and I sat at the table chatting – I figured he shouldn’t be abandoned while my brother-in-law was taking their dog outside for a potty break. My mother and sister were cleaning up in the kitchen. I heard my mother thank my sister for her help as my sister walked into the dining room, where I sat with my dad. My sister responded, “Well I couldn’t let you do it all by yourself.” Then she turned and looked right at me. I would have given her the finger, but again, I didn’t want to start a fight in front of my parents.
Now let’s compare that to the day before. A friend was visiting from out of town. I wanted to see her and her three kids, but I didn’t feel up to going to her parents’ house where she was staying, 1/2 hour away from me. So she agreed to make the drive up to my neighborhood. There’s a great playground within walking distance of my place but I didn’t feel up to walking, so she drove to pick me up. She understood that I couldn’t help much with the kids, and didn’t mind that I sat on a bench in the shade while she chased them. She was just happy for our time together. She even gave me a birthday gift. I pointed out that I didn’t expect anything – after all, I hadn’t given her anything this year. I can’t afford it thanks to the insurance bullshit. She said that even though I couldn’t afford to give gifts, it was still my birthday and she wanted to give me something. And you know what she gave me? A big gift bag full of gluten-free goodies! She gave me several kinds of pasta, flour, cake mix, pancake mix, pretzels, and cookies – all gluten-free! She knows how hard it is for me to find some of these things, and she gave me exactly what she knew I’d want and enjoy. And as she gave it to me, she offered to exchange anything I couldn’t eat, since she wasn’t sure exactly what my other food restrictions were. Talk about someone who understands!
Sure, my sister can be a bitch. Sure, she didn’t wish me a happy birthday. But I’m choosing instead to focus on the excellent people in my life who are wonderful, understanding, and supportive. Most of us have lost people due to our illnesses, but some of us have been lucky enough to find true friends will always be there for us.
As a side note, I want to remind myself and you that we contribute to these friendships too. Maybe I can’t babysit for my friends or cook for them when they’re ill. They offer to get me groceries and pick up prescriptions. But I lend an ear and am very supportive. I have helped them prepare for job interviews, research insurance for a kid’s illness, and just listened to them complain about jobs and families. Our illnesses don’t prevent us from being good friends. Some people don’t get that, so it’s up to us to focus on the ones who do.