Written October 13, 1993.
Colleen and I are were the first twins born in 1975 in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Both our parents hoped we would be two boys, or one boy and one girl. Needless
to say, we stunned them both. Before our arrival, our room had been adorned with
all sorts of "boy stuff" -- tiger lamps, little red plastic footballs, and the
color pink nowhere to be found. My sister and I never minded however, we stayed
active like boys and interested in playing sports until we became teenagers.
For the first ten years of our lives, my sister and I were always together.
Neither one of us would go anywhere without the other. We would get into
mischief together, we had the same friends, went to the same Catholic school,
and were in the same classes. Two particular childhood friends we had in common
were Shawn and Scott. Our mothers had met while taking us for rides in our
carriages. My sister and I grew up with those boys -- we went through injuries
together, or parents' divorces together, and shared the pain of growing up and
growing apart. As we got older, we could no longer have childhood adventures
with them. We girls were no longer interested in playing tackle or boxing in the
basement. We were interested in being girls. When Colleen and I had to move to
Massachusetts, we found it difficult to keep in touch with Shawn and Scott. But
we never forgot them.
When Colleen and I were in fourth grade, I became very ill. For a long time my
mother thought I was going to die. I had bronchial asthma, and would have to be
out of school on Mondays and Tuesdays to get oxygen in the hospital. I never
ate, and the medication I was prescribed was killing me. My sister helped take
care of me, and would sleep in my bed to comfort me at night. I was her little
sister, and she did not want to lose me. My mother eventually stopped giving me
my medication, against the doctor's orders. She knew something was wrong. Taking
me off the medication saved my life, and I was no longer a scrawny seventy three
pounds months later. I went to see another doctor then, and she made a strange
suggestion to my mother. The doctor thought that it would be a good idea if
Colleen and I were not dressed alike anymore. She said it was unhealthy, and
that we should each be our own person. Our mother took the doctor's suggestion,
but we were not forced apart until we started fifth grade in a public school. It
was different than Catholic school, because of the regulation that two siblings
could not be in the same class. Colleen and I had always been in the same
classes together before then, so we were not used to being detached. It was a
different experience to us, to make separate friends, and have separate lives.
Colleen was more outgoing and therefore more successful at making friends than I
was, and it was difficult to accept that she had friends who didn't like me. It
was painful to know that my sister would allow that to happen, as she had always
defended me and "beaten up" children who taunted or harmed me. She was no longer
my bodyguard, and worse -- she was no longer my friend. We had finally grown
apart in a way our doctor considered "healthy." From then on, we would hurt each
other verbally and physically, like most siblings. However, in times of distress
or heartache, I saw a faint shadow of the old friendship we shared as children.
But I still longed for my big sister to hug me, or to sleep in my bed and
comfort me when I was sick.
Starting in high school, my sister changed her life for the worse. She began
hanging around with the wrong crowd. Her friends were into drugs and alcohol,
and she followed their example. She had boyfriends who provoked her to lose
confidence in herself. Since I knew she was a beautful and intelligent girl, I
knew very well that she did not have boyfriends who treated her badly, nor did
she have to crawl back to them when they used her up and threw her away.
However, she attracted jerks like a magnet, and I could have nothing to say
about it. She would party with her friends, and come home to go to sleep. I had
never realized how deeply her problems were until she attempted suicide - a
warning to everyone that she was hurt. She had tried to overdose by taking a
mixture of various pills. I saw her asleep in her bed, with an empty bottle of
pills in her hand, and I woke up my mother and told her something was wrong. She
rushed my sister to Salem State Hospital. My sister was harnessed to a bed when
she got there. She became violent toward my mother and anyone else who came near
her, and she felt my mother was to blame for all her problems. This feeling
lasted for a long time, and my sister continued to go out with her friends
whenever she wanted, and disappear for days at a time. Our mother was literally
worried sick. She got an ulcer and had to be hospitalized a few times.
Colleen's friends never studied in school, so Colleen never did either. She
barely made it through high school with all of her friends either dropping or
flunking out. One friend in particular, the source of Colleen's drinking and
partying, dropped out half-way through her Senior year, as she could not
concentrate on school with a cocaine addiction. Colleen's only source of
motivation was me, our mother, and her last remaining true friend, Kaytee.
Together, we pushed Colleen to get through school, and she barely made it. She
had decided, at the beginning of her Senior year, that she wanted to attend some
kind of college--but not even a two year secretarial school would accept a girl
with her grades. However, despite her failed attempt to pursue college, she
accomplished something greater. She got through high school with all of her
problems - including having had an abortion. I was very proud of my sister for
making it through. It didn't matter that she didn't have the grades to go to
college. She was still a smart girl, and she had more strength than anyone I
knew. I always admired Colleen for her ability to withstand the obsticles of her
life. I can see the toll that the problems have taken on her, but she has
continued to stand up and try again.
In the past years, I have learned to accept the splintered relationship that my
sister and I share. I can only hope that as we get older, we will become close
again. I know that the bond between us has not severed, and I know it will
always be there for all the tribulations we may stumble upon. I have shined in
the light of her courage and strength, and have learned from her experiences.
She will always be my big sister, no matter what changes may occur in our lives.