Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Twisted Sister

A third grader bowed his head in an attempt to hide the tears as they spilled beneath his horn-rimmed glasses. His apparent plight caught the eye of his teacher, who quietly asked him what was causing his distress. She might have expected him to complain about homework, a test score, or a class bully. Instead, he looked up at her and proclaimed with a sigh,


I'm pretty sure he would have preferred the bully.

My mother relayed this story to me, and although it sounds like one of those "cat in the microwave" urban myths, I always thought it would make a great first scene in the independent film of my life. Whether or not this actually took place, the foundation of an eight year old boy was severely shaken the day I was born.

Wayne was a wonderful child who followed all the rules. He did what was asked of him and took exceptional care of his belongings. When walking up the street to visit his grandmother, he could be trusted to safely avoid the dangers of the road by adhering to the grass along the edges. No need to worry about this kid. But look out for number two.

I took it upon myself to cover all the bases Wayne had missed with his good behavior. I whined, I cried and threw fiery tantrums. My father fenced in our entire yard, as I could disappear before the hat dropped. Having yet to learn respect for the possessions of others, I was the terror of the toy box. The human equivalent of an untrained puppy, platoons of my brother's plastic soldiers fell victim to my teething jaws and I was incredibly difficult to housebreak. I preferred the feel of a clean diaper but was resistant to toilet training, so I often took it upon myself to empty out the contents behind the downstairs couch. More often than not, it was my brother who would make a gruesome discovery while playing with his friends. Yep, I was a real princess.

The gap in our ages made it unlikely that we would be the best of friends during our formative years. We travelled in our respective circles and he was simply my older brother while I was his pain-in-the-ass little sister. Passing years brought differing opinions and heated arguments often ending in accusations of favoritism; although neither of us had ever wanted for anything, it was clear that I was "Daddy's little girl".

We managed our aging parents' care with minimal contact. Only the rare special event would find us back home at the same time. Throughout my mother's nursing home tenure and my father's cancer, decisions were questioned and tensions mounted. Dad quietly wished that we would somehow mend our fences, but he wasted no time on fruitless peace-making measures.

As we tag-teamed our visits to watch over Dad in his final weeks, the tide unexpectedly turned. Sweet little singing birds did not pull back the curtains to reveal a pot of golden friendship at the end of a glistening rainbow, but we could clearly see the benefits of compromise. We helped each other through my father's passing and seamlessly joined forces as we faced the aftermath of his life. I never would have imagined a "feel good" Hollywood ending for this independent film and I can't explain how I let it come about. Dad tried to tell me that I would need my brother, but I had so often refused to listen. I guess I'll just assume that the bug up my ass had affected my hearing.

Watch out for those bugs.


  1. okay, now I've got the 'bug up my ass' visual stuck in my head....

    Of course, your father is right, you will need your brother one day.... I'm glad you have each other.

    so, you were a bad ass toddler, I would have NEVER guessed!

    It was a great read Joan, thanks for sharing and painting a true representation of your childhood. Now I don't feel so bad about my numerous attempts at trimming the dogs tail, or setting the woods on fire (and falsely accusing my cousin), or eating sticks of butter, or stealing the neighbors mail....

  2. What a wonderful read. It is funny how we find each other. I have two sisters and relationship has been a struggle for us. You are absolutely correct about the change...sort of creeps up. The opening of your movie brings to mind some classics-love it.