My sister and I got off to a rocky start. See, when I was just an adorable innocent baby she put me in the oven. Okay, it was a Fisher Price oven, but an oven nonetheless. Though I have no actual memory of the incident I’d like to think it led to my claustrophobia. Thanks, Nicole.
It wasn’t long after that she finally accepted I was here for the long run. And so she settled nicely into her role of big sister. We had a fairly normal relationship as kids. She would convince me to give her my toys and I would do whatever she said for fear of the consequences of not doing what she said. My mom dressed us in matching little mermaid shirts and we played dolls, library, Super Mario, princesses, and Lego.
I don’t remember when I realized that my sister and I had inherited very different body genetics from our parents. Her, thin like my mother. B*tch. And me, heavier, or as people would call me “big boned,” like my father. She lived up to her nickname as “bunny,” always hopping about. I was my parents (not-so-little) “bear” and preferred to cuddle up and read or watch movies than to partake in the physical activities she enjoyed including dance and gymnastics. We’ve never shared clothes or shoes like most sisters do. In high school, she used to complain that the xs at the Gap was too big for her. I resented her highly, thinking she had been dealt the “perfect” daughter card, me the misfit.
After moving to Halifax everything changed for us. Our teenage years definitely put a significant halt to our relationship. She wouldn’t give me her expired driver’s license to go underage drinking. She wouldn’t lie to my mom and dad for me about where I was. She was the “good” daughter and I was the “bad” one. Little did I know we were more alike than we’d know. Both struggling with anxiety and depression but battling it in very different ways. While she stayed home on the weekends and found comfort in tv shows like Gilmore Girls; I ran about with the wrong crowd, often making poor decisions. I so wish I could go back and watch Gilmore Girls with her. Let her know she wasn’t alone. Let her know she was my best friend.
Then she met B. The “perfect” guy. The first one to pay her any attention, so who could blame her for falling for his charm. He was older and he woo’ed her with all the classic firsts that come with a new relationship. I remember spying on her through the blinds as he dropped her off one evening. Her first kiss, I was so jealous.
Not long after meeting him, she got into her dream university to pursue her artistic dreams and she moved to Toronto, B soon to follow. It would be years later with a wedding dress hanging in her closet and the venue for their wedding booked when we would all come to face the truth. B was an abusive, lying, son of a b*tch. He was months late on their rent and had been fired from his job for lying and stealing from his company. And my sister was his collateral. She had put on nearly 75lbs during the time they were together, the first time she had ever faced challenges with overeating and weight gain. She was a shadow of her former hopping “bunny” self and years of verbal and physical abuse had taken their toll. How could I not have known what was happening?
The strength it took for my sister to call off her wedding, pack up her belongings and walk away from a would-have-been life of abuse and deceit was unfounded. Those were some really dark days but as they went on I could see this incredible weight lifted off of her shoulders. She got back to her normal weight, she was thriving at work, and she was inspired to change her life’s former direction. Exploring a year abroad in Florence, Italy, to pursue her love of animation was on the horizon. And our relationship, although fragile, was on the mend. My sister as I formally knew her, was back.
And then my Nonna died. And my sister’s newly developed life fell apart. On the way to my Nonna’s wake, a young woman who was too exhausted to be driving, swerved into my dad’s car, hitting the back passenger side and altering my sister’s life forever. There were no broken bones, no visible fractures, no concrete diagnosis that accompanied her excruciating pain. We would later learn that her flexibility from those days in gymanstics and dance meant that upon impact of the accident my sister’s muscles flexed too far back. Imagine pushing your index finger back, it’s pretty stiff, isn’t it? Well, imagine it bending all the way back. That was my sister’s muscles and the strain that bending put on her was irreparable.
The years that followed the accident broke us completely. My sister fell into a deep depression, her days filled with so much pain she could barely shower or brush her own hair. Unable to hold her own head up she lived in a neck brace and was completely and utterly miserable. Who wouldn’t be?! Months of doctor’s appointments, opiates, different therapies, and a lawsuit that would test us all as a family ensued. Insurance companies are an awful thing sometimes. For my sister, an innocent victim whose life had been turned upside down, they were determined to wear her down. Determined to prove she was faking her injuries. Determined to leave her to pay for her own therapies not covered by OHIP and continue on as if nothing had happened. As if her physical limitations bestowed upon her were just a figment of her imagination.
Her roller-coaster life plot has been the opposite of easy. I think through all this I probably would have given up. And she thought about it. Early on in my pregnancy with O, I noticed some lines on her arms and I knew just what they were. She was cutting herself. My beautiful sister with the world in front of her just wanted to die. I’d love to tell you that I was the super caring, empathetic, strong sister I should have been during all of this. I wasn’t. When my sister needed me the most, I was busy planning a wedding, getting married, and starting my family. All the things she had envisioned for herself and she was forced to watch me go through them with ease. Supporting someone through the trauma my sister experienced and trying to remain positive when that person doesn’t want help or to see anything positive, is hard. Like really f*cking hard. I resented her for resenting my happiness. It was a perpetual dark hole where we lost sight of one another altogether.
After my beautiful O was born, things slowly started to change. We were all living under one roof with my parents (a better story for another day lol) and forced to coexist. Though those years were challenging, we found one another again. She had a new purpose, she was an aunt. And it was something she took very seriously. It’s no surprise at the incredibly special relationship O has with his “Zizi.” He lights up at the site of her. And she spoils him rotten, as any good aunt does. It’s funny what magic a new child can unknowingly create. O was a breath of fresh air that slowly mended a heavily damaged relationship. He put us back together <3.
And so a new friendship blossomed. And so did Nicole. She won her lawsuit, f*ck you insurance company who shall not be named. She bought a new camera and began documenting the lives of families. And on December 31, 2012, at a low-key family New Year’s Eve gathering, a boy and a girl who had known of one another for years became best friends. Became boyfriend and girlfriend. Became husband and wife. Never were there two people more destined to fall in love, never was there a more imperfectly perfect love story. Standing up next to my sister as she married her prince and got her happily ever after is hands down one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
Her battle isn’t over yet, it may never be. She lives in constant pain but has become stronger at managing it. She does what she can, when she can, always being mindful of how many spoons she has for the day. And sometimes those dark thoughts creep back in. Sometimes she begins to slip, questions her worth, all those fun feelings that accompany depression. But for the first time, she’s hopeful. And this time around, I’m here to pick her up and cheer her on. She’s slowly building out her portfolio, though her pain can make a photo shoot incredibly difficult. She’s stepping out of her comfort zone and finding her feet. She hopes to start her own family one day soon and I can’t wait to see her become a mother, one more thing we can share in together. I’m so f*cking proud of her.
Much like her life, our relationship has been a roller coaster. We’ve gone up, hurdled down, and done more than a few loop-to-loops. And though I’d love to wave a wand and erase those painful times and take her current pain away, I’m so proud of where we are. Nicole is more than my sister, she’s my best friend. She’s who I tell all my mom-fail stories to. Who I celebrate with when something exciting happens. Who I always wanted her to be. But in turn, I’m finally the sister I always wanted to be. At least I hope I am. This woman she’s become is incredible. And in this journey I’m on, I know she’s one of my biggest cheerleaders. And I hope she always knows, I’m hers.
Love you sorella.