As I was playing with my daughter, Caydence, I was reminded of a time when I was playing with my older sister, Nicole, and I asked myself if Caydence would ever have a sister to play with. I could not help but stop and ponder what it would be like for her to have a sister to take care of the way my sister took care of me. That thought stayed with me for some time as my memories flooded in like I was watching a drive-in movie. My sister was not just my sister. She was my best friend, my protector, and my hero.
After this incident, my mother decided to divorce my father and go away to college. My sister and I were left in the care of my father. Although my father abused my mother, he always went out of his way to let my sister and me know he loved us. It wasn’t always in the typical way, but we knew he loved us. As I look back on this time, I realize that my father never left for work like my friends parents did, and we did not always have electricity or heat like my other friends.
When my sister was just six years old, my father would leave her to look after me while he would go across the street to the local bar. My sister always made sure I had something to eat even if it wasn’t much. She made sure I was bathed every night and would lie in bed with me until I fell asleep. I did not know this was abnormal because she took such good care of me. I later found out that she would stay up until two or four in the morning until my father stumbled in the door and crawled into bed. My sister was forced to be the parent in the household, but I never heard her complain about it. She simply accepted her role with a quiet pride and took care of me. She would also handle the grocery shopping by taking what little money my dad had and buying as many groceries as the money would allow. She always woke up early and got me up out of bed and ready for the day. She always taught me new things and played with me, so I never thought things were abnormal.
When I turned four years old and my sister was eight, our mother came back and gained custody of us. She had remarried and quickly moved us to another state and another school which was new and scary for me. My sister protected me from bullies and made sure no one picked on me for being the new kid at school. She would always act out and scare away new babysitters that my mom picked because they were not taking good care of me. My sister was the only one who knew what I needed. She would lash out at my mother and step-father when they yelled at me for doing wrong. To an outsider, it might have looked like she was out of control, but she was just being protective of me, in the only way she knew how.
When my sister was thirteen, my mother had another daughter, named Ashley, with my stepfather. Somewhere in the time that my little sister was born my sister fell into a deep depression. My sister started to act out more and lash out against my mother. I remember she dyed her hair in an act of defiance and would stay out after curfew. One night she snuck into a public pool after hours, where she was caught by the police. My sister was brought home by the police at three in the morning. My parents were livid and grounded her for two months. At this age she also started drinking and smoking with her friends. She would have groups of friends over while my parents were not home. This group of friends led her to stealing and wrecking other’s property. Through all this she always tended to me and made sure I was ok. Within a year her acting out took a potentially deadly turn when she overdosed on pain medicine. I was so scared the day my parents got the call that my sister had been rushed to the ER. Seeing my hero on a hospital gurney having her stomach pumped is one of the worst things I have ever witnessed. She seemed so helpless and defeated. She just seemed so sad. I remember that I was the only one that she wanted to see in her hospital room. I did not know how to take care of her like she took care of me. Even if I tried to take care of her, she would not let me. She seemed to only want to make sure my needs came first.
This incident of my sister in the hospital brings one of the most depressing times of my life. Shortly after this my parents decided to move overseas because my step father received a job offer, they sent my sister to a boarding school in Suffolk, UK. I was only able to see her once a month. She made up for it by calling me every day on the phone. Like they have a habit of doing, the calls were less and less frequent, and our bond seemed to lessen over that time. Things got worse again when my sister was kicked out of boarding school for constantly disobeying the orders of her house mother. In an act of desperation, my mother sent her back to the states to stay with our biological father. It was apparent that he had not changed since the last time we saw him. My need to be with my sister was so strong that when my stepfather’s transfer ended, I moved back with my biological father to be close to my sister. This turned out to be a horrible mistake as he was worse than I remembered, and my sister was forced to step in and take care of me again. I was fourteen, and she was 18. My father had remarried and had twin sons who were rambunctious and out of control. These poor boys were witnessing terrible acts and were picking up these behaviors. These things made me notice a repeat of my father’s actions. He was always getting drunk and going through two packs of cigarettes a day. I can still remember the time my stepmother hid the bottle of vodka from my father. My father went crazy, tearing the entire house upside down. My sister took me in her room and told me to sit in the closet while she blocked up the bedroom door to protect me from the evil that took over my father. Just about 30 minutes later, I heard, yet again, those sirens of the ambulance and the police pulling up to the house. I remember pressing my face up to the cold frosty window seeing another victim of my father’s abuse, my stepmother, being taken away by the ambulance and my father being pushed into a police car. After that dreadful day, as soon I got home from school I would hide in my room until my sister got home from work. She once again took on the role of parent and made sure I was fed and taken care of because I refused to leave her room. She would bring me food when I needed it and make sure I had all the everyday essentials.
A year later, she met a magnificent man, moved out on her own, and I was allowed to move in with her. At age 19, my sister was a full-time parent to a 15 year old. She never missed anything involving me and always made sure I had everything I needed. She made sure I had a place to live, made sure I was up and off to school in the morning, food and clothes and that I always had someone there for me. To this day, she is everything to me. Anytime I have had a rough time in my life, she has shown up to help. She has even watched my daughter for me when I was having problems with my fiancé. She is always supportive and will not allow me to give up. No matter how rough her life gets, she does not let it stop her to push me to succeed. She is my first cheerleader and the first person to tell me when I am off track. She simply means the world to me. One thing that makes her my hero is that she does the same for everyone she knows. She always makes sure our family and her friends come first before herself. She donates to charities even if she has no money. She has thrown about 25 baby showers and has never asked for anything in return. She is the most selfless person I know and works two jobs while juggling school just to make sure she can take care of others.
As I look at my daughter I see some of those qualities in her, and it makes me proud. I hope that one day I have another daughter so that she will think back on Caydence and say “She is my hero.” My sister does not wear a badge or carry a fireman’s axe. She does not wear a military uniform or a doctor’s lab coat, but she is and will always be my hero.
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