It was all I could do to wait my turn to say my thoughts today at the Quaker Meeting. All that was on my mind as I sat in silence was the phone call I had with my sister yesterday. Here’s roughly what I said.
I want to tell the story of my sister. It is a short story. She is a few years older than I am so I was about sixteen and she was about eighteen when she ran away from home. She stuck out her thumb and hiked across the country. She headed for Alaska and eventually ended up at the very end of the island chain. She moved to Oregon after that and has been there for the past forty years. She doesn’t want to know me anymore. Once a year I call her on her birthday and sometimes she calls me on my birthday. So we talk twice a year sometimes. Last time I saw her was five years ago when we both went to our father’s funeral, but I haven’t seen her much in all the forty years she’s been gone. Yesterday she called me back after I waited a week to hear from her. I’d left her birthday messages on her answering machine at home, at her work and on her personal cell phone two times, so I’d left six messages. After we talked a little bit and it was time to go I had one more thing to say. I told her I’d been worried she wouldn’t call me back since it had taken her so long to return the calls. I told her that between that and the fact that whenever I ask if she’d like to get together she always says ‘no’, I was starting to get the idea that she just didn’t want to see me anymore. I asked her, ‘Do you even want to see me again?’ Her answer was, ‘Not really’.
That’s when I told her I was pretty sure I hadn’t done anything to deserve her shunning me. That I’d been a nice sister and that her not wanting to see me was probably more about our past than anything else. I said I thought it had to do with our parents being difficult, and our childhoods being difficult, and that the fact that she’d run from them didn’t really have to do with me. I told her all that.
My parents were not terrible people. They were good folks but they unwittingly fostered a distrust among their children that lives on today. I’m telling this story because I am always in favor of happy childhoods and for people realizing the power they have as parents to make good childhoods for their kids. I am here to say that it’s best to know what you’re doing when you raise kids because if you get it wrong there can be some pretty painful long-lasting results.