My daughter started asking for a brother or sister as soon as she could talk. It came up a lot throughout her childhood and was a source of great guilt and grief for me.
Can you grieve for a child that never existed?
I did. But it wasn't enough to give my kid the sibling she wanted so badly. Her father and I decided for many reasons not to have another child and now, years later, turns out it was the right decision.
Yet my daughter still brings it up. Nearly three decades later and she still pines for that mythical being. I don't know what she thought a brother or sister could bring into her life—probably someone to fight loneliness; someone who had her back; an ally and confidant. But I said the same thing to her just last week as I've said many, many times before:
"There are no guarantees your brother or sister is going to love you."
My sister hates me. (This statement should be in 50-foot caps but it's bad grammar.) So, I'll repeat it: My sister hates me from a place so deep and dark that no one, not even Freud or Jung, could reach it over two lifetimes of psychotherapy. Her hatred is Shakespearean. Homeric. It's the kind of hatred handed down through generations. It's the Hatfields and McCoys. It's the Montagues and Capulets.
She carries this hate around with her and feeds off of it.
She tells people stories about me. One time, I went to a party where many of the guests were her friends—people I'd never met. I introduced myself and got rude stares and the cold shoulder. I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on at first, but later it dawned on me—she'd been bad-mouthing me. Years later, after I befriended one of those people, they said to me, "Jeez, you're really nice. I don't know what D was talking about."
But D doesn't know what D is talking about. She exhibits all the symptoms of borderline personality disorder with a huge dollop of narcissism, yet refuses medical help. She's one of those functioning crazies every big family has—the shit-stirring bad kid that wreaks havoc and laps up the bad energy like a hungry dog—the dog that guards the gates of hell.
When she started to hurt my kid, I had to put a stop to it. After years of not showing up to promised shopping trips, movies, even Disneyland, she pulled out the big guns. "You think you're so smart," she said to my daughter when she was 14. "Just like your mom. But you're not, and she's a bad mother and everybody hates her."
And there you have it. A lifetime of pent-up jealousy and anger that began the day she was born and continues to this day. "Mommy loved you best." A hackneyed and overused phrase for sure, but it's true—my sister felt she needed to compete with me for my parent's love. And they didn't help, constantly rubbing my accomplishments in her face, hoping she'd straighten out.
But my sister was wrong. I was four years older, old enough to be a protector and not a threat. Through twisted family dynamics, she assumed a role—that of the neglected kid who wasn't loved or cared for in the same way. Only she was, even more so because she demanded the attention. But it was never enough. It's a classic case, but dragged into adulthood and beyond, it's old and dusty and sad. And she'll take it to her grave.
She's missed out on so much. And so have I. After your parents, who else but your brother or sister knew you when you were in diapers and can remember all those family stories and secrets handed down for generations? When our parents died, we spent days drinking wine and reminiscing—a short respite from the ugliness. It was nice. But it didn't last long.
D and I no longer speak. The last blowout put the boot in it for me. No one attacks my kid—especially a family member.
So, when my daughter moans about not having a sibling, I remind her of D.
"There are no guarantees that your brother or sister will love you, kiddo."
I think she's starting to understand.