I’ve not seen my sister since Australia Day 2016. It was Mum’s B’day and we had a huge fight. As a family, we’re 3 peas in a pod (my Dad passed away when I was 18, I’m 44 this year) so as you can imagine, it’s been fucking savage on my Mum who’s very much in the middle.
I’ve spent my whole life reassessing the rules to judge for myself what’s right and what’s wrong. ‘Family Comes First’ sounds like a pretty logical and respectful rule for life, but for the past few years I’ve really been struggling to agree.
My sister and I have fought since we were little. Always verbal, never physical (the closest I’ve ever come to hitting her was a pillow fight). As a kid I spent a lot of time at my Mum’s side. She ran a successful fashion store at Centrepoint Tower in the city and did her own alterations which meant she spent a lot of nights sewing garments till late. I’d often keep her company on these late nights (whilst my sister and Dad were asleep).
My sister was Dad’s little princess. Whenever I’d fight with her she’d yell for Dad and I’d get hit. I have memories of sharing the same room with her when she was really little and I’d wake up to her screaming off the top of her lungs for Dad every single morning. I also have a memory of Dad buying me a huge Faber Castell texta set which had every colour of the rainbow. My sister wasn’t happy I got such an amazing gift so she proceeded to go through every single texta, from dark to light, clutching the pens like a dagger and drawing huge circles on a pad of paper, she went through every single colour and by the time she got to the light yellow textas she was ruining the felt tips by running them over the dark circles on the page.
When some of the relos moved in we moved out to a bigger house down the road and my sister and I had separate rooms. There were times where relos stayed with us for long periods of time, in those times my sister and I would have to share a room and that was pretty unbearable for both of us as we were now older and I needed more privacy and space. Even listening to music was impossible as both of us would play different CD’s from different stereos in the same room.
I was a good kid growing up, but I caused a few dramas in high school. It got to a stage where I just couldn’t stand my sister anymore. I always felt like I wanted to hit the ‘eject’ button. One night I did. I packed a bag and was ready to leave the house to live on the streets but Dad caught me. I remember Mum, Dad and I being up at some wee hour of the morning having a meeting in the kitchen about WTF it is I was trying to do.
I somehow got permission from my parents to sleep out the back in the pool shed. IE: We had a swimming pool and next to the pool was a small fibro shed for the pool pump. Dad got some friends to help extend the shed and I ended up sleeping out there for years. I had a bed, my guitars, a huge stereo (which helped to drown out the loud intermittent pool pump!) and a small Black and White TV for chills. Mum got me a cordless phone so she could buzz me when dinner was ready. I had no sink or toilet so I’d still have to go in for food and showers (I mostly pissed over the back fence).
When Dad passed away the 3 of us went separate ways. We weren’t inspired to seek therapy, we just got on with our lives. Mum found strength in the church, I went crazy experimenting with art, music, babes and drugs and my sister… well, we don’t know what happened to my sister. She was 15, and as far as I know she locked herself up in her room.
We moved in to a huge 2 story house where Mum took one room upstairs and my sister had the rest. I took the granny flat out the back. The house had 2 street frontage so I had my own garage and street entrance/exit. It was a huge upgrade from sleeping in the pool shed. I was in a long term relationship and my partner at the time and I missed my sisters 21st B’Day Cruise. Long story short; we were in Manly and couldn’t make it back to Circular Quay in time, mobile phones weren’t such a thing back then so we made the (bad) call to stay in Manly.
It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that just because I don’t like flowers doesn’t mean flowers don’t mean anything to my girlfriend. Or just because I don’t give a shit about my B’Day doesn’t mean people don’t care about theirs.
My no show at my sisters 21st was pivotal. I sometimes wonder if it was my only chance to step up to be a father figure for her, or not… I can’t be sure but the thought does cross my mind.
I was on a charge when I graduated from Design School. I was fronting The Australian INfront. A design community that was making waves. We had monthly meetings and my sister was involved initially (I always felt she was a copycat with my taste in music and her signing up to the exact same design course as I did didn’t surprise me), but before long she bailed out completely. When I asked why she replied that she found me intimidating. This floored me as it felt like she was in competition with me instead of being in competition with herself. I was going at such a frantic pace that I didn’t really address it, instead I charged on.
I had 2 long relationships end during these design years and my sister never got along with either of my partners until we broke up, then she would be besties.
When my sister and I would fight she’d often end the fight with threatening to disown me as a brother. It’s taken me a long time to understand where the word ‘disown’ comes from, at the time I always took it for being overly dramatic and ultimately said just to stab and hurt, but now I can see 2 shades to everything.
After my 2nd long term relationship broke up I started seeing a girl who was previously friends with my sister. Despite my warnings to stay out of it, my sister couldn’t stand rejection from the girl I was seeing (who was going through all sorts of crap in her life) and she forced her way into our lives which ultimately split shit up.
I’m not big on kids, and often used the word ‘hate’ in reference to kids. IE: I HATE KIDS. My sister popped out 2 gorgeous kids, and I’ve seen how much work she’s putting into them. My sister tried to get me to get closer to her kids, but the more she tried the more resentment I felt.
Because of her kids our weekly family dinners became bi-weekly and then they just didn’t happen at all.
For a while I’d only see my sister on bigger family occasions, and it seemed like we would fight on days that were especially special to Mum, like Mum’s B’Day or Mothers Day. The last time we fought was Mum’s B’Day, we were having dinner at Reynold’s new restaurant (the Asian kid who won MasterChef the previous year). My sister is a healthy food freak and at some point during dinner I joked that I couldn’t wait to take her kids to McDonalds one day. This REALLY offended her. She looked right through me and said “Don’t you fucking dare talk about my kids like that”.
That’s just the thing with my sister and I, it’s always 0-HERO in a heartbeat. It’s obvious that if the joke came from anyone else on the table it would have been funny, but with anything that comes out my mouth, she’s loaded and ready to pounce. The fight went on for a bit, again, this was my Mum’s B’day.
I was the designated driver that night. I drove my Mum home first (Randwick), then was going to drop my sister off next as she was living in the same suburb as me, just a block away from my house. When Mum got out I turned on the exhaust (I owned a very loud supercharged R32 Golf at the time) then proceeded to drive like a dick whilst screaming all sorts of profanity at my sister.
I drove my sister mad. She fought back for a bit, so I just swore even more and drove even harder.
It’s only a few km’s from Randwick to Maroubra but I said a lot in that time… I cornered, accelerated and broke hard on purpose to rattle her cage and halfway to her place she was in tears and scared for her life.
I’ve not seen her since. I’ve had all the relatives hear both her side and my side of the story in regards to the road rage incident. She says I ran red lights and tried to kill her. I know for a fact I didn’t run any red lights. I also didn’t go past the speed limit (but cornered a couple of times at the speed limit). I wasn’t out to kill myself or damage my car! I just wanted to rattle her cage as I’d had enough of her.
We tried to do family therapy but my sister wouldn’t play, suggesting Mum and I go first to fix our issues, then she would join us. I opened up Pandora’s Box. It took me 6 months of therapy with Mum to apologise to my sister. Sure, I could have written something convincing using my mind, but this had to come from the heart and for that to happen I had to bring back memories of when I truly did love my sister, and those moments were way back when I’d walk her hand in hand to the corner shop to buy 40cent paper bags of lollies.
Even then I remembered that she was so dead cute in her little white dress the relos would beg her for a lolly, but “NO!” She’d snap her lolly bag away and never give up any, that’s when all the relos would look at me, and whilst hesitant, I always gave up my lollies because my sister didn’t.
It took 6 months but I finally wrote my apology letter from the heart. I sent it to my sister via email and I also put it in her letter box. It took months for my sister to reply. In that reply she rejected my apology. I fell apart. I stopped driving, started wake and baking, gamed a lot and just found myself down in a hole.
Recently my Mum told me that when I was at my lowest, and contemplating suicide, she begged my sister to reach out to me but she refused to. She begged her husband to reach out to me too, be he also refused to. This news hit me like a 2 tonne heavy thing. Those months were a blur and I have hardly have any memories, but I had NO IDEA that my sister knew anything at all about my down state. Hearing that she knew, and knowing she chose not to reach out really hurts.
I’ve been hurting ever since hearing this and questioning whether I can still keep pushing (forcing) my Mother to get us 3 into a counselling session together when it’s now dead obvious to me that my sister really doesn’t want me in her life.
Life is short.
Every time I think of my sister I think of this, and I stay determined to try and find a way, but now I’m truly starting to sway.
‘Family Comes First’ has kept me from being me. I’ve been honest but not completely open about my family problems out of respect, but I’m exhausted from trying to fix it and I’m drained from keeping it all in, so now I’m willing to talk about my family issues in public without caring about what my sister thinks, nor anyone else who chooses to look at this as ‘airing dirty laundry’.
I’ve accepted that my sister has cut me off. I’ll always be here when she’s ready, but ‘life is short’ and I’m moving on.