HEY! I wanna talk to you. Yeah, I got something to say. How come for my whole life does everything I do get compared to everything you do? Huh? How come when I have a problem it’s one you’ve already solved? How come-how come do you always have it worse? How come when I, you know, when something happens to me, how come mom says, “Well, when your sister…” Huh? Huh? HOW COME?
Whew. 10-year-old Olivia needed to get that off her chest. It’s the plight of every little sister. It’s nothing we can control or something we can change. Moms are worn out by the time we come along. They’ve just about given up and you, little sister, you are the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Two weeks ago I called my mom just to talk. I’d been suffering from a bit of anxiety, which can really get me down, and just needed to know that I wasn’t dying, that I didn’t have a heart murmur, I wasn’t going to be broke forever, I’m not a bad person, that I can be loved, and it’s not the end of the world. You know. The usual doubts. I told my mother about flatulence that’d been trapped in my rib cage for weeks at which point she said what every little sister dreads to hear, “Oh, you don’t have to worry honey. Just think of your sister….Who had cancer. And went bald. And was sick for a year. Remember? She was bald. Her breast is-“
ALL RIGHT! All right. Yes. I remember. She was bald. And with that my mother goes back to discussing the shop and her latest tiff with gram, whose shout of defense I hear in the distance. “Well, we love you and everything will be fine. Just pray.” Click. Dial tone….
I sit up from the back of the car, where I’d hidden, to find Fil in the garage grinning because he found a snorkel and mask. “Wanna go look at logs?”
I sat there staring into nothing. That stare when really you’re basically just looking at the inside of your own eyeballs. I felt as if nothing in my life was of any importance to anyone else. And after my mom brought up cancer, I started to wonder if anything in my life would ever be important to myself let alone anyone else. When would my life not be compared to yours? When would my problems not be overshadowed by yours? Now that you’ve had cancer everything seems so minor. If my appendix burst right this minute my first thought would be “at least it’s not cancer.”
How are any of us supposed to have a bad day when you beat cancer? How is any life changing event supposed to change anything when you could have died from cancer?
I can’t find a full time job. At least you don’t have full time cancer.
My friends are all in New York. At least your friends don’t have cancer.
My cat pooped over the side of her litter box. At least she didn’t poop cancer.
I mean, come on already. What do I have to do around here to get some sympathy?! Well, you could get- SHUT UP!
And here’s the thing, the entire time I’m writing this and I know the entire time you’re reading this, we’re laughing. What on earth do we have to laugh about? That I’m slightly jealous of your cancer and you’re slightly jealous of me not having work every day?
If there is anything that mom taught us and taught us well, it’s that there is ALWAYS something really funny in everything. And if it wasn’t for that, well, we’d have nothing.
For every little sister who feels ignored, for every big sister who’s always had to help, and for every tired mother who refuses to choose, your problems, your worries, and your disappointments are never yours alone. We share it all. We share a laugh. We share a heart.