From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

My Other Mother

Shared joy is double joy, and shared sorrow is half sorrow.

Swedish Proverb

I hated her.

There was no getting around it: I despised the very ground she walked on. She was tall and beautiful, and I was not. She treated me like slime, and I let her because she was bigger. She teased and belittled me and made me feel inferior. I was last to get my way and the first to get in trouble, or that was how it always seemed.

I hated her. And I tried desperately to convince myself how much I meant those words.

One day, while still in the midst of sibling rivalry, our parents announced their divorce. How could this be? Oh, sure there were some fights but nothing too bad. Just normal everyday stuff, but then how were we to know what was normal? Before I could really accept this, my mother was gone. I was twelve, the baby, and had never felt so much like one until that horrible day.

Suddenly, I was very alone.

How could they do this to me? I lost friends as, back then, no respectable parent could possibly allow their darlings to associate with an unsupervised child from a broken home. I ruined my clothes, as I’d never had to wash my own before. I burned my meals, as Dad worked late, and I was hungry. I hated everything around me. I hated my mom for leaving, my dad for letting her, and myself for being so helpless. I guess I didn’t have much left in me to hate Dana so much anymore.

Many afternoons I would come home to an empty house, watch television, burn my own dinner and cry myself to sleep. Dana had her own life, an older life, full of friends and sports and parties. Her boyfriend practically lived at our house. They used me as the butt of their jokes, but I just didn’t care anymore.

One day after they teased me to tears, I ran to my bedroom and threw myself on my bed, sobbing my despair. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried harder than I did that day. I pined for my old life; I’d take the fights if things could just go back to being normal. I cried until I had nothing left but deep exhaustion and those awful hiccups that come with a long cry.

Then something pressed its weight beside me. I turned over and saw Dana sitting on my bed. I opened my mouth to shout at her to leave me alone! But the look on her face stopped me.

I buried my face and whimpered, “Go away,” with a pathetic amount of conviction.

Dana reached out and brushed the hair from my face. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

I held my breath, wondering if her boyfriend was standing near the door, just waiting for the cue to burst out laughing and prove they were playing yet another cruel joke. But Dana stretched out beside me and rubbed my back. “What’s wrong?” she asked, and the sincerity I heard in her voice opened a flood of fresh tears.

“I hate this! I want Mom to come home! I hate you and you hate me, and I hate everything!”

“No you don’t,” Dana said. “You don’t hate me.”

I wanted to shout, “Yes, I do!” I tried to shout it, but the words stuck in my throat. Truth was I didn’t hate Dana. I wanted to, but I wanted her to love me more. What was it about an older sister that made a young girl pine for her acceptance? Why was it I had a hurt so deep and aching that I wished Dana could make it disappear? She was the closest thing I had to a mother, yet I despised the fact she couldn’t see how much I needed her. I guess I hated the fact that she didn’t need my guidance and love as much as I yearned for hers.

“And I don’t hate you,” she added.

“Yes you do,” I said. “You’re so mean to me.”

“I’m your big sister, I’m supposed to be mean to you,” she chuckled, as if I was supposed to know this. “That doesn’t mean I hate you.” She wrapped her arms around me. “I love you, Stace.”

I didn’t care that tomorrow she would probably go back to being mean and spiteful. I didn’t care that it would be years before Dana would tell me those words practically every day and mean them. I didn’t care that it would take ten years and a six-hundred-mile gap between us for me to wish we could see each other daily. Right then I wanted to believe her; I needed to. I rolled into her hug and let her hold me.

I’ll never forget that day. Sometimes it seems like yesterday. She was there to hold me when I needed someone to do so; today she is still there.

Stacey Granger

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