This is a family story. I get to tell it because I write a column, and I’m the big sister. If you want the other side, you’ll have to read between the lines. Or wait for my sister’s tell-all book. Heaven forbid.
Some years ago — I say six, she says four — my sister called to ask if she could sleep over. She had a home out East, but was teaching third grade in Hewlett. The commute was a killer. Of course we welcomed her in. After all, we have a four-bedroom house to ourselves since the kids abandoned us to their own selfish pursuits (careers and kids).
So Meryl came to stay over, and she stayed for four or six years, depending on whose memory you trust. Yesterday she moved out to her own nest in a nearby community. She said it was time, and we respect that, but it kinda has been really nice having a sister under the same roof.
She is four years younger and a widow for more than 20 years. As the older sister, I confess to feeling a need to take care of her. She might interpret that as being bossy; she once compared me to Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Un would have been a kinder comparison, but OK, I can be a bit controlling because I worry about her. It was great having her here in Pyongyang West.
Many people have asked both of us how we can possibly get along in the same house. I suppose the biggest factor is my husband, her brother-in-law, whose welcoming arms are as big as his heart. He has known her since she was 12 and we were dating, and he used to pay her a quarter to get lost.
The other factor is, she and I don’t chatter much or make much tumult around the house. Most mornings we both jump when I’m in the kitchen and she comes out of her room for coffee. We forget that the other is there.
We have a routine. I knock on her door, and she takes one look at my face and asks, “What’s wrong?” I always tell her. That’s why I knock on her door. That’s why she seeks me out, on the porch or upstairs. This has happened countless times over the years, both ways, talking about our parents or commiserating over issues at work or with friends. We share moments of joy: a kid gets married or lands a great job or has a baby; a medical report gives an all-clear; she retires; a dormant lilac bush blossoms.
“After weaving ties for all these years, the thread is broken,” I say.