At 7:22am I was prepping my morning smoothie of kiwis and papaya, when my phone rang. I grabbed it off the kitchen counter. It was my sister Maria, all freaked out, telling me she worries about all of us her siblings, plus her back is in pain. She sometimes calls to tell me she thinks she has autism, restless leg syndrome, or whatever it is she’s seen on the news,“We’re all okay, Maria. You don’t need to worry about us,” I say, and add that her life isn’t that hard because at least she doesn’t have to ever work, and her husband neither. To which she adds that she does work because they have children. “But a lot of people have to have full-time jobs, and raise their kids,” I tell her.
Maria goes on, and it occurs to me that Lily would never dismiss Maria the way I just did. Lily is all of our favorite sister. She’is naturally compassionate. I can be compassionate too, but I have to remind myself to be so, and I think about what Lily would have said to Maria just now. Lily seems to just ‘get’ everyone. Sometimes I think that if Lily ever had a chat with a mass shooter, while she wouldn’t agree with his actions, she would see his heart, even if it was covered layers deep, in pain disguised as rage.
So I say to Maria, “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that. I can see how it’s tough,” and at that Maria bursts into tears and says, “When we were kids the parents didn’t love me, they loved you. You were so perfect. and they treated you better because you were perfect.” Suddenly I’m transported to a time where I remember Maria with bright eyes, in wide-eyed wonder. She’s a waddling toddler, a toddler the parents would later clamp down on, and hard.
So I start crying too because I feel bad. I wasn’t perfect, only more of an authority-pleaser, one with a personality better suited for survival under a dictatorship-like regime. Unlike Maria, who had an inborn rebel element about her, who had to put her fingers in the outlet to know what would happen.
Maria continues on, about how I’d be a better mother than her. She tells me that she’s a shitty mother, and is afraid her kids won’t love her because of it. So I say the wisest thing I can think of. “Mom was a shitty mother, and we all loved her.” With that, we both laugh through our tears.