I always wanted a sister.
I am not sure when my parents told me they lost two babies at full term – both girls – one before me and one after me. I am sure it didn’t really register with me until I was an adult and expecting my own children. At that point, the full impact of what it would mean to lose a baby after nine months overwhelmed me, and the thought of that happening twice seemed like something from which it would be nearly impossible to recover.
My brother was the last child my parents conceived. He was born with a serious visual birth defect called Coloboma. He has struggled with limited, uncorrectable sight his whole life, as well as serious addiction for many years. My parents have had a difficult life – not without blessings and comforts and happy moments – but also continual heartbreak. Their perspective on life is definitely shaped by losing two children at birth and then facing the challenges of having a child with a rare genetic condition. They have been severely impacted by my brother’s addiction. They continue to support him, as well as his two children, when they should be enjoying their retirement. My heart breaks for them every day.
Cleaning Out/Scaling Down/Passing On a Legacy
My mom is really, really organized. She does not hang on to things for sentimentality and, at this point in her life, finds relief and comfort in getting rid of things. She knows I AM sentimental and I have a hard time getting rid of things that may have meaning and sentimental value.
So when a large box arrived containing the bicentennial eagle that hung over the front door at my childhood home, I wasn’t surprised. To fill in the empty spaces in the box, my mother had stuffed in some other knick knacks, miscellaneous items and an envelope full of odd documents. On top of the pile was a love letter from my grandfather to my grandmother after my mother’s birth, death certificates from both of my grandparents, and many other random pieces of paper. As I shuffled through the pile, I found myself holding a birth certificate. It had the perfect baby footprint and the full name, birthdate, time and birth weight of MY SISTER. I had never seen this before, nor had I considered such a document existed (the post-mortem report was also there). I knew that my first sister (born before me), who never took a breath, was never named. However, this sister, born after me, I thought was named Caren (pronounced cah-ren). Suddenly, this piece of paper shocked me into the realization that this baby was my sister, that she had a birthday – August 23, 1970 – and that her name was actually KERIN (and unknowingly, we named my daughter Erin!). Suddenly, I found my eyes filling with tears as I imagined this sister growing up with me, borrowing my clothes, using my makeup, and competing for my parent’s attention. Suddenly, I was overcome with the sad reality that I could have had a sister.