Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buying A Birthday Card

My sister's birthday is on Sunday. Yesterday I was at the grocery store and saw birthday cards, and remembered that I needed to pick one and get it off in the mail. But I had a strange, and somewhat disheartening, realization as I was picking out cards.

I always have a hard time picking out cards for people to begin with. I am always hunting for that "perfect" card, the one that represents the relationship I have with that person. For my husband, its funny and sarcastic. For my brother its quirky. For my aunt its over-the-top sappy. But for my sister, its always a hard call. Last year I found one that compared flat-screen TV's to flat chests - that was my pick, since there is a running joke about my sister's flat chest between us. However I did feel it was a little shallow.

But there is always an issue with buying a "sister to sister" birthday card. Most of the cards talk about being inseparable, having a one-of-a-kind bond, always being there for eachother... It makes me sad to read through those cards because I don't have that relationship with her. Don't get me wrong, she is my go-to person for certain things, but overall we just don't have that type of relationship. We were close when we were little, but were never "best friends" the way a lot of sisters are. Being 4 years older, when I hit junior high and high school, though still living under the same roof, I was into my own thing and I saw her as a nuisance, so we just did our own things and didn't pay much attention to eachother. At the point I finally decided I wanted a real relationship with my sister, she was into her own thing, and was beginning to enter the partying scene. I even opted to appoint my best friend as my maid of honor over my sister, because she was so uninvested in me that she actually wanted to skip out on my wedding altogether to go to the river with her friends. It makes me sad that I felt I had a closer relationship with my best friend than my sister, but it was what it was.

So there was no possible way I could pick a card that talked about all the good times and how close we were/are. We have had our moments of closeness, but on a whole, I feel like her addiction only widened an already existing gap between the two of us. In fact, I even feel like my husband has a closer relationship with his sister - and he's a man. That sister-to-sister bond just isn't that strong between us. And when I think about all the moments she missed, all the hurt her addiction did to our relationship, it makes me sad, and it makes card shopping rather tough. I am not going to pick a card that is a lie. I am not going to try and play up what our relationship "is" based on what it "should be."

I wonder often what things would be like if she hadn't chosen the life she chose and wasted so many years being so wrapped up in her own life, drugs, and subsequent problems. Would we be closer? Would we have those Hallmark-worthy memories? Would we have that closeness people expect sisters to have? Would we talk on a more regular basis? I don't know, but somehow I do think things would be a little better. But I guess I can't dwell on the unknowns.

Our relationship is improving slowly. Sure, she doesn't return my phone calls, and can be a total mess, but so can I. We aren't the type that talk everyday - or even every 2 weeks - but we know that if the other needs us, they are there in their own way. There is a relationship, its just not all that close or all that conventional. But its us, and I will take what I can get...even if its not what a Hallmark card says it should be.

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