Time has a way of revealing the truth of all things.
It’s not like she did it on purpose. It was always just easier for her. Even at the age of six it was vibrantly clear. My sister was a masterpiece, while I felt like a discarded canvas. I blamed her—at times, I loathed her. She was the finer version of me. I didn’t know how mistaken I had been.
There wasn’t anything my sister couldn’t do. The world flowed and connected for her. She could defeat me at any game. She didn’t need anyone to boost her. Whatever she had inside her was something I couldn’t find. While I was whimsical and ethereal, she was in motion, learning, taking in everything. More than that, she was thriving, soaking in the best of our parents’ qualities while I struggled to take part. All the while, she wasn’t playing a game or competing; she was winning.
I loved my sister. How I loved her exquisiteness, intensity and the easy way the world opened for her. I would observe her, try to absorb her. I wanted to astonish her, make her love me. I wanted her to receive me. Instead, I made her into the villain. She was the anti-hero the bully, singer, dancer, the exotic beauty. She was everything. I made myself believe I was nothing.
The truth was she bullied me, she hurt me, and she broke me.
We fought. Oh, how we fought. And all the while, I felt bullied, never knowing she was trying to toughen me up. She didn’t know it herself. How could she? She was a child, barely fifteen months my senior, and she was already protecting me. I would hear the stories of how she would help my mom roll me over to change my diapers.
She wasn’t my nemesis. She was just a girl who knew what kind of woman she was going to be. I had pitted myself against her, judged her. I hated her for loving herself, knowing herself, accepting herself. She was living her life while I studied her. With every passing year, I would hone my skills of language arts, finding solace in storybooks, words, knowledge. I armed myself with dreams and passions, promised myself I would one day do all those things.
I am thirty-seven years old now, finally seeing a different version of the tale I had told myself. I see what our difference was: my sister never gave up. If the world knocked her on her ass, she would navigate her way back, blast through the mountain and build a highway. Unlike me, she was in sync with the reality of the harsh world.
That little girl never wanted to hurt me, compete with me or destroy me. She loved me, and I got in her way. Always. I think back now, remembering the specifics of how I ruined so many things for her out of a selfish need to shine brighter or garner her attention. She always gave it to me, even when I did not deserve it.
The truth is she also mended me, defended me, fought for me.
I have never admitted to her how badly I wanted to die when she, the villain in all my stories, literally saved my life. Only a few years ago, I was lying on the floor of my bathroom unable to cry for help. What I thought was a simple infection had taken over my body. Despite that we had drifted apart as adults, she somehow knew I was fading. My sister barged into my house with the authority of a general. She demanded I get up, firing question after question to gauge my response. She commanded the attention of my husband. She sped me to the hospital where she led the charge to ensure I received the help I needed. She became the hero of my story.
I had given up, let myself fall, and chose to stay down.She had, by the grace of God, sensed I was dying. She found me, gave me strength, shamed me into fighting for my own life. She would not let me stay down.
I would be nothing without her.
I have always said I would never want to meet an angel. They are described in a way that frightens me. However, I now know that an angel doesn’t descend from Heaven to bring forth judgment. Sometimes, the angel is your sister, the one you envied so much without realizing she was placed in your life exactly where she should be, forged with the strength of will and character to fight for you when you didn’t know how to ask for help.
On this Valentine’s Day I speak to her, the only person who is exactly one half of me, hoping I can thank her for not giving up on me when I would have given up on myself.
The truth was I bullied her, hurt her, and broke her.
I have one regret which I aim to correct; a simple memory I failed to share with her, ironically, on a long past Valentine’s Day. I should have called her on that Valentine’s Day when she was rejected for doing something so heroic as loving a man, marrying him, and moving on and out with a courage I could only write about.
If I’d had the guts, I would have stood in that Journalism room and told her, when she called, how I was proud of her. That I loved her. It was not she who abandoned me. I abandoned her. When she needed me the most, I did not use my voice. I should have fought for her, defended her, seen the purity in which she loved. Instead, I let myself believe she was leaving me when she was simply choosing, once again, to live.
I should have called her when she was abandoned. I should have found her when she was lost. I resented her so deeply for loving another more than I believed she loved me. I failed to recognize the connection between my failure and my despair every February. How could I not see it? I was the one observing. I felt lost ever since I saw my father’s reaction to the flowers she sent to my mother on a Valentine’s Day long ago. Everyone abandoned her. I know now that the reason she found me when I was lost was because on that Valentine’s Day long ago I had not told her how much she meant to me and how scared I was to be out there alone. She found me because, despite the stories I had tailored to fit my tragedy, she had never left me.
She has always thought of me.
If she hadn’t, she would not have instinctively arrived, whisking me away like the force of nature.
I don’t believe in regrets, yet I still carry them. I don’t believe in angels, yet I have many. My story doesn’t end here. I will no longer simply observe her. I have no wish to repay her for saving me time after time as that would mean suffering for her. I have only one course of action: my own bravery, strength, survival, and happiness. Anything less would not suffice as a thank you.
I will not waste a minute of my life waiting to be saved. I will save myself, love myself, appreciate myself, understand myself, and protect myself so that she may one day not have to worry if I will be okay. I’m okay, she saved me already, and the rest is up to me.