All my life, I watched my mother Gloria interact with her sisters, Nell and Becky. Though each of them were loyal to the families they had created, sometimes I think they were most loyal to each other. They had grown up in a difficult time—they were children of the Great Depression—and they knew what it was like to have only family, only each other, to rely on. Upon getting to know my mother Cher later in my life, I observed her experience of sisterhood with her sisters to be very much the same. They, too, had experienced a very difficult life with a very difficult parental relationships; ultimately, all they had were each other. They and their sister-friends were loyal to each other through it all and through the years of thriving that followed. They experienced the kind of loyalty to one another that endures to this day.
I always admired my mothers’ sisters relationships with each other and how that loyalty to one another extended to each others’ children. I was (and am) as much at home in my mothers’ sisters’ homes—any of us were and are—as we were (are) at our own homes. Without being able to name this feeling, I always longed for it.
Upon deeper reflection, I think this is perhaps why I have gravitated toward deep friendships with women—cultivating my own sister friends, even marrying one—admiring not from a distance the kind of loyalty I never seemed to find (or trust) with men. Sisters, it seems, make the very best kind of friends—the kind who will protect you, be forthright with you, and nurture all the places in your heart that have been long-neglected.
I believe this is why being found by sisters who have claimed me since the moment they knew of me matters so deeply to me.
So today, I want to talk about one of these sisters who celebrates a milestone birthday today.
She and my bio-paternal siblings found me 10 years ago. Not long after getting to know her, I began to affectionately call her “Sissy,” because I’m quite certain had we grown up together, this is how I would have known her. Very close in age, she and I both possess a certain kind of strength and also a certain kind of vulnerability. And though we had never known each other our whole lives, our hearts synced up immediately: Sissy, the oldest female child, and I, the oldest male child stepped into a reciprocal relationship of love, protection, and encouragement. And she immediately provided a type of sisterly nurturing my heart longed for.
With Sissy, I experience exactly what it feels like to have by your side and in your heart a reliable, loyal sister-friend—sister by blood and by choice. She is generous, she is loyal, she is wise, and she speaks the truth. With no fanfare, she just…is. I can feel her kindness in the depths of my heart; I close my eyes and see her gently smiling toward me with the look of pride and deep affection. With presence, intention, and no-kidding unconditional love, she has become for me that which has fulfilled my deep longing for a sister.
And further, my sons, I believe, feel about my sisters the way I must have felt when any one of my mothers’ sisters extended relationship to me. They know they are loved by Sissy and can count on her for encouragement, affection, and enduring love that family should (but often does not) provide.
I look back on the last decade of knowing her outright (I believe my heart has always known her) and rejoice how she has been present at some of the most important moments of my life—just like I always imagined a sister to be. Through tough times, some incredible times, and the just regular times too, she has shown up for me, and continues to do so.
Kathy: I admire you for the woman you are in the world. For how you model for your own daughters the beautiful potentiality of womanhood. For how you love your husband, nurture your family, and for how you continue to give to those you love. For how you love your siblings with such grace and loyalty. For loving me.
And today—as you’re the first sib to join me here at 50—I thank the Universe that we are forever connected in life and in heart, that I have in you the sister I can rely on always…
…that I have a Sissy, the one I always dreamed of.