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February 28, 2008


My sister almost never calls me. I can’t really be critical, though - because I rarely call her either.

We’re less than 4 years apart in age, but seem countless miles apart in life. She’s taken some hard knocks that I’ve had the good fortune and/or good sense (most likely, a combination of both) to avoid. She still lived at home during the divorce of our parents, and took it very personally. She dropped in and out of college a few times, and started down various career paths that never panned out. She began having kids at an early age, and now has the fates of four little ones riding on her tutelage and guidance (not that kids are hard knocks - just a lot of stress and work).

She’s also battled obesity ever since high school - although “battle” probably isn’t the most appropriate term, since it implies some sort of balanced fight. Unfortunately, this particular war is very one-sided: obesity has taken command of her life as mercilessly and unrelentingly as General Sherman took control of the South.

There was a time, many years ago, when I tried to guide her in healthier living, but nothing really seemed to take. Eventually, I sensed enough ambivalence and resentment that I finally left her to her own consequences. She's had some health issues and anger issues and sometimes barely resembles the fun, happy kid sister I grew up with.

Over the years, it’s become harder and harder for me to relate to her. We live in separate states now, and have seen each other only a handful of times in the past decade. We talk on birthdays and holidays, but otherwise tend to stay out of each others’ lives. We’re not quite estranged … we’re just very much apart.

But she’s my sister, and I love her - so I occasionally worry about her, and frequently wonder if she’s healthy and happy. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to hear from her earlier this week.

She called me in the middle of the day, and we soon had this conversation:

Me: So what’s up?

Her: Oh, nothing … just that I saw a picture of you in my new doctor’s office.

Me: Um … what? Really?

Her: Yeah – he’s a runner, and did the Marine Corps Marathon one of the same years you did.

Me: Yeah, but … I still don’t get it.

Apparently her doctor has one of those photomosaic-style posters that was made sometime after the 1995 Marine Corps Marathon. Thousands of thumbnail images of runners from that race combine to form the image of the Iwo Jima Memorial, which stands at the finish line of the race.

My sister noted the year, remembered that I had done the same race (coincidentally, this was about the time when I was bugging her the most about exercise), then searched the poster for about 15 minutes until she found my little thumbnail.

I’m not sure what part is the most surprising: the fact that there’s a photomosaic poster from that race (I had no idea these even existed), or that my sister remembered I had done Marine Corps the same year, or that she took the time to look through thousands of thumbnails until she saw a teeny tiny picture of me. All I know is that it was good to get a surprise call from her, for no reason other than to share a brief laugh together.

I’m also uncertain as to whether there’s any significance in the timing of her call. She was in a doctor’s office (this isn’t entirely happenstance – she has more doctors than any 30-something person should), looking at a picture of me running, and possibly remembering all the different ways I used to bother her.

And who knows – maybe something registered that hadn’t before. Maybe a seed that was haltingly planted years ago finally began to sprout. Maybe some of her health issues will finally, slowly, mercifully start to turn around. Maybe she’s a small step closer to being happy and healthy.

Or maybe she was simply calling to say hi - and I guess that would be OK, too.

Because my sister almost never calls me. But yesterday, thanks to an old running picture, she did. It was a nice little moment – and under the circumstances, I’m happy to leave it at that.


Makita 2/28/08, 10:10 AM  

Sometimes it is the littlest things that speak the loudest. Let's us hope that your tiny little picture was what she needed at that time to start on the path for a happier & healthier lifestyle.

My brothers and I aren't particularly close either - not like we were when we were little. But knowing they are there when I need them makes all the difference. I am sure the same is true for your sister. She knows she can count on you when the time comes.


Deene 2/28/08, 10:52 AM  

that's sweet. you're probably her secret hero.

T Clarke 2/28/08, 1:55 PM  

Thanks for sharing this. It definitely struck a chord for me.

triguyjt 2/28/08, 2:58 PM  

thats a nice sentiment from deene...i happen to agree.
its no mistake as to why she called out of the blue....

she has admired you..other times might not have been good for her to be receptive to your advice....
maybe now, she is...
good luck

speedygeoff 2/28/08, 3:07 PM  

That's a great "ramble", thank you for writing it and sharing it with us.

Backofpack 2/28/08, 4:23 PM  

Very nice Donald. My brothers and sisters and I don't connect too often either - always on holidays, less the rest of the year. We are all busy and fairly far apart. We used to hang out a lot when all the kids were little, but life got busier, both my brothers moved, we moved...anyway, I'm glad your sister called and you reconnected.

David 2/28/08, 6:33 PM  

Your story was awesome but I hated the ending. You need to water that seed and call her up. Don't leave it at that. Times change, minds change and maybe she'll change.
Try again. There's nothing to lose except some of her weight and health risk.

Rainmaker 2/28/08, 6:58 PM  

That's pretty neat that she took the time to try and find you. Like others - I think it's her way of saying "Hey, I'm thinking about you!".

Darrell 2/28/08, 10:56 PM  

True life.. hope all is well with your sis and I'm glad you had this moment.

Annette 2/29/08, 1:54 PM  

I'm glad you were able to connect with your sis, although briefly. I have similar relationships in my family. It's kind of hard to believe that you grew up together sometimes, isn't it? I hope that your sis will soon start taking care of her health. But, as you know, people have to do it for themselves - when they are ready.

By the way - loved the quote from Dr. Seuss you left on my blog. I'm such a sucker for children's books. Too bad I don't have an excuse to read them anymore. :) I'm actually looking forward to watching Horton Hears a Who - and I have no kids!

Bullet 2/29/08, 3:09 PM  

This relationship mirrors the one I have with my sister in so many ways. It'll always be a work in progress.

By the way, to hell with Sherman for what he did to our beautiful South. We're still pissed!

rick 2/29/08, 5:14 PM  

Wow there's a part of her that remembers and is proud of you. I can't imagine any other reason why she would remember the year and spend the time looking for your photograph. No one in my immediate family exercises, not my step dad, not my mom and not my sister who is in college. I've stopped telling them but my sister checks up on me through my blog and tells her friends about my races, so does my mo.

mindy 2/29/08, 6:56 PM  

Really nice story - and perfectly said. I hope you can continue to have more little moments like that - and who knows, maybe you'll keep reconnecting.

Anne 3/1/08, 7:16 PM  

Your sister sounds like my sisters in many ways, including frequent trips to doctors. Then again, with four kids -- what mother isn't a regular visitor, right?

Keep hoping for the best...my guess is she's proud of her big brother, if maybe also a little jealous.

And those winter wonderland pictures in the last post were so nice I almost want to head north. Almost.

Bruce 3/2/08, 1:05 AM  

Touching story Donald, thanks for sharing. I have younger sister too, living in the UK currently and has spent probably 13 of the last 15 years there and when she was in NZ she was in the South Island. Doesn't make for a great relationship.

Have your caught up on all of Lost yet? Season four just got underway a few weeks a go here. The show still has plenty of answers to give up. Cant wait for more.

craig 3/2/08, 6:28 PM  

Sometimes stuff like this turns out to be more than mere coincidence. I'm hoping the reconnecting has just begun.

My Life & Running 5/14/08, 10:51 AM  

As an only child who came to have a sister later in life... I'm not the best one to understand the sibling dynamic. Buuut as someone who has battled body issues her whole life, I think I can put myself in her shoes? I've had the men I love most (dad & husband) confront me on my high & low weights. It hurts, it's embarrassing, and it can cause some serious insecurity issues. Some of my first reactions have been to push them away, get angry and retaliate back by picking out their flaws... Yet, deep down I know they only confront me out of love. And eventually I've come to appreciate their concern and desire for my well-being. But it's hard to admit that, especially to them.

I'm glad that you tried to push your sister towards a healthier lifestyle. That took courage and risk. I fully believe weight-issues stem from self-esteem issues, so continue to push love on her. And I'll pray that she can see that love and that it will heal the hurt that is causing her to damage herself.

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