I can’t remember the last time it was just me and my sister on a trip. The time that comes to mind is autumn 1996, about seven months after I had moved to Colorado. She visited me and we took some day trips to my new favorite places in my new home state.
So, here we were 19 years later, taking a road trip into the hills of Kentucky just a couple of hours away from Cincinnati. I had found a lovely historic inn for us to stay in for the night. (more to come in a future post)
As we drove south on the highway, we talked about mom. This was really the first time we had spent together that it was just us – no Dad, no brother, no kids – since mom passed away. We needed it. Time as sisters and daughters to heal. To talk about mom and all that has transpired since. Talk about our grief. Get to know each other again as sisters and not as the two people taking care of Mom.
I love my sister, even though we are completely different. She married at 21. I was still partying at Ohio University at 21. She had her first child at 23. I was a year out of college and not sure what I was doing with my life. By the time she was 28, she had 4 kids. I was back in school – photo school – at 28 and still living with Mom and Dad. She has worked for the same hospital (she’s a nurse) since she was a student nurse. I’ve…well, let’s say I’ve been around! She never lived more than four miles away from Mom and Dad. And I lived in Colorado for 15 years and have itchy feet – always ready to “run away”. But, what we have in common is our love of our family. We loved Mom so much. We love Dad. We love the rest of the family. And, let’s face it, we’re sisters so we also share some DNA!
So, this trip was both healing in that we felt mom with us – always. We freely talked to her as we traveled. And, it was also a chance for us to be sisters and get to know each other – again. While we are different, here’s something we have in common…we like the same types of bourbon. What did you expect? We were traveling along the bourbon trail. So we tucked into Woodford Reserve for a tour. The Double Oaked bourbon was a hit for us. And the place we stayed? 50 Bourbons to try! We tried about 8 and discovered we liked the same ones. Who knew?
I learned that my sister is like Mom – she’s a great listener. But, unlike Mom, who never seemed to give much advice at least not as we got older, my sister does offer some advice. She’s like mom in her love of her children and grandchildren. This was Mom’s world…and it is my sister’s world. My sister, like my mom, loves Christmas and goes all out for this holiday. I know that she will carry on this tradition. And, she will become the matriarch of the family as my mom was.
The most interesting conversation came as we drove back home on Sunday afternoon. We talked about Mom’s final months and her passing – about how it was me that took care of Mom in those last months. My sister commented that she, being the oldest and a nurse, was the likely person to take care of Mom at that time. And, to be honest, I think the entire family thought that’s how it would be. But, the universe chose me. I was here. It was where I wanted to be and it was where I needed to be. I needed to do this and I can’t imagine not being here to care for my mom. In all honesty, I probably would have shoved my sister out of the way to care for my mom. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, this entire experience has changed me. The loss, of course, changes a person. But, the gift of taking care of her – and it was a gift – is what has also changed me.
I’m grateful to have such a wonderful big sister to share memories of Mom with, to cry with, to laugh with, to make fun of (it’s too easy!), to talk to, to be myself with, to love and to be loved by. (and to drink bourbon with!) I’m hopeful of more times like this special weekend. While we are very different, we are sisters. And while we might drive each other crazy at times, underneath it all, there’s a lot of love. We have Mom to thank for that – it’s where we learned unconditional love. Love you, Sister!