My sister Kim always tells me she loves me. She’s three years my junior and still acts like the baby who needs full care. Today, on my 48th birthday, I told her I’ve evolved past the point of accepting the word love without the action of love.
“I wish I was smart,” she said.
“What does ‘smart’ have to do with love?”
“I can’t say the words I mean.”
“Well, let me tell you what I mean. This isn’t to bash you. This has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks.” She called last month and asked me to pick her up and take her to the emergency room. I hadn’t heard from her in about nine months. “You always say you love me but your actions say different. You don’t want to talk to me. You don’t want to spend time with me. You told me you resent me and that’s all I can think about when I’m around you. This is how the world treats me and I know the world doesn’t love me.”
“Shawnda! You’re my only family!”
Last week she admitted herself to the hospital for a long-delayed major surgery. She was detoxed and prepped for three days and called me a couple of hours before the procedure. I hadn’t heard from her in a month, since the day after the emergency room.
“I sat with you for four days in the hospital. For four days, you slept through my visits. Didn’t talk. Didn’t engage. Your boyfriend walks in. Suddenly, you’re alert, you’re talking, you’re engaging. He may have a different idea of what love is, but I’m sure he knows you want to be around him.”
“I wish I was there with you now.”
“But you had the opportunity to be with me and you chose different.”
“I just want you to understand me. I want to understand you.”
“Understand what, Kim?”
“It’s hard. My life has been hard.”
“Life is hard for most people. Most everyone is tested beyond their endurance in some way. But no one can understand what you’ve been through if you don’t communicate. That’s why talking is important. If you don’t talk to me, how can I know what’s going on with you?”
“The best thing to understand about me is that safety is important to me. I make sure people who mean me harm don’t have access to me. I’ve become adept at removing myself from people and situations intent on controlling me. Being in a home where no one has power over me makes me feel safe. What’s the one thing you want me to understand about you? The most important thing?”
“I’m the same person.”
“The same person how?”
“I’m stuck in the same time.”
“What’s the time?”
“The age twenty-four?”
“What was the trigger at the age of twenty-for.”
“Will. Will and Deidre. I prefer to be quiet and keep them under the rug. And I sit on yhe rug.”
“No! Pick up the rug, beat them up and kick them out the house! Keeping them buried with you in your space keeps you stuck where you are. Far better to confront the memory and kick it out of your house.”