My sister just came to visit me for 5 days and it was amazing. We visited a few wineries, soaked up the summer sun, and even rescued two dogs for a night. Meaning there were three humans and five large dogs bouncing around our house for an evening. We spent days at the pool and celebrated our birthdays together. All in all, it was one of the best times we’ve had together in a while.
As I was helping her pack for her trip back to Minnesota I had a realization, the toll of her distance was wearing down on me more than I had ever realized.
You see my sister and I never grew up in the same household yet we found a way to grow a special bond. Our whole lives we stood by each other and defended one another to the very end. From a young age, we decided that we would live next door to each other when we grew up. We wanted to try to get pregnant around the same time so we could share the special experience together. We even agreed to be surrogates for one another if it came to that. I don’t even remember how we got on this subject as teenagers, but none the less we were determined to have an adventurous life, together.
However, life doesn’t always care about your plans.
Almost six years ago my sister packed up a Uhaul with all of her belongings and my nephew and headed clear across the country to go to vet school. With a strict school schedule and personal issues, she was always missing holiday events, birthdays, and get-togethers. Gone were the days that we could go to lunch just to talk, or plan fun weekend activities together. Now I was limited to seeing her once a year for merely three or four days.
Why? Well, it wasn’t practical or cheap for her to fly home constantly, and driving for 16 hours without stopping with a toddler was just not an option. I tried to fly up and visit her as much as possible but as a young college student out on my own, I didn’t have the funds to just pick up and fly to Minnesota whenever I felt like it. So we settled with what time we did get with each other. We figured we’re family so surely the distance wasn’t going to affect us, right?
At first, it was always so exciting for her to head home. But as time went on her visits became more strenuous on our relationship. My sister is four years older than I am so as a kid I followed her around everywhere and whatever she wanted to do, well, that’s what we did. However, as I grew up and started my own “adult” life I could no longer be the little girl who followed behind her everywhere she went. I had responsibilities now and I couldn’t just ditch work to spend every day with her. I got married and was no longer able to just pack up my life and bed hop from one family member to another for the week she was in town. Needless to say, these new circumstances were an adjustment for us. An adjustment we hadn’t figured out how to navigate.
The closeness and steadfast admiration and love we always had for each other was starting to fade and eventually, and unfortunately, resentments were born. We started to drift apart and that perfect and loving life we had planned with one another was starting to seem like a fairytale.
Our relationship turned into random phone calls every few months. Phone calls that seemed to be between strangers. The honesty, pureness, and vulnerability had left our conversations and we came to a point in our relationship where neither of us wanted to let the other in too much. It even got to the point where we eventually stopped making it a priority to spend as much time together when she came home.
Basically. It was hard losing your person. The person who’s relationship was meant to be thicker than any friendship or marriage. The relationship that was meant to be unwavering.
I started to wonder where I had gone wrong. What I could have done to change the outcome of our situation. We had reached a point I never thought would happen. A point where I didn’t know how to fix things. I would wake up from time to time and feel the loss of her in my life. The frequent question of how we possibly got to this point in our relationship ran through my mind nearly every day. Believe me when I say there were some tough internal conversations and many hours spent alone crying while trying to figure out how we could go back to the people we use to be.
The answer was we couldn’t. It took us many long tear-filled phone calls and screaming matches for us to realize we just weren’t the same people anymore. So much had happened to the both of us in those six years apart and unfortunately we would never be the same again. We could no longer push the blame onto the other person. It was time to face reality and if we didn’t we would never find our way back to one another. You see, we had changed so inevitably our relationship had to change as well. We would have to learn to love the people we became and build a new and stronger relationship.
I will be honest in saying the hardest part so far has been navigating the shift between nice pleasantries to real vulnerability. Currently, we’re still working on building a new relationship. Is it perfect? Not yet. Will it be eventually? I hope so.