I’m pretty old to think of myself as an orphan.
My family birth order created “surrogate” parents for the younger children. There were six of us and the older three took care of we younger three. They were our buffer. It wasn’t just the age difference it was a natural divide. These sisters were really better than parents because they breached the age difference. They championed us. They commiserated with us. They were interested and understood our lives. They allowed us to disobey in contained ways that made our young lives exciting. One of my joyous memories is of staying with my sister and her husband, rolling down my long stockings and drinking orange pop. Six-year-old bliss!
My first sister died many years ago. I lost another last year. And now another one? I huddle with my two remaining sisters and we tremble at the thought of losing each other. In our first family, we are all there is.
I didn’t feel like this before. Of course, when my mother died I didn’t think, “Oh, it’s okay, I still have Dad and his wife.” It wasn’t conscious thought. And when my father died I didn’t realize that I clung to my two older sisters. I grieved, I missed him, and life went on.
My first sister who died was the third in birth order and six years older than I. In her, I lost a wise friend who sometimes gave me great motherly advice.
Last year I lost a sister who easily crossed back and forth over the line of mother and sister. She was always watching out. She bossed me, she coddled me and she assumed privilege. She decided when I needed a new bathroom mirror. She brought me food when she came to visit. If I admired her jewelry, she gave it to me. She criticized me without mercy (for my own good, of course) and loved me without condition.
Now my third sister is gone. She lived a life I found hard to identify with my own and many times she seemed emotionally distant from me; but she always cared about me. She was the oldest. She was the most intellectual and the least proficient in coping with the world; but she planned for us and she was the keeper of our history. In this last year I could see and feel her grief at being the last of the older “pod”. She saw herself as the “remaining parental influence” of her sisters even though we are all eligible for a senior discount.
Her death was not a surprise. Although she wanted to live I could see her slipping away. Her passing was not a surprise but it is still a shock. She was 15 when I was born. She knew me as a baby. She was the last person alive to know my entire history.
I am bereft. I am unprotected. I am so sad.