My sister and I are not as close as some. However, blood is thicker than water, we get on OK and I’d like to think that she would be there for me in a crisis the same as I would be there for her.
But this is not about us.
This is about a pair of sisters I’ve known for about ten years.
The younger of the two was a teenage bride but was widowed several years ago. She lives alone but has a lot of friends, and they all meet up for lunch once a week. Her children visit often and she is generous with her time and hospitality.
The elder’s first marriage ended in divorce and she later married a widower who died over 10 years ago. Since widowhood she has enjoyed male company through the internet and is making the most of her life as a single person.
I met the eldest one first. She seemed very pleasant, and we had a fair bit in common as we both owned dogs and walked them in the same place sometimes. A few months after we met, she had an accident and broke her leg. Before I knew it, I’d been volunteered to be her driver and dog walker. This was how I came to meet her sister as once a week, they’d have their hair done at the other’s home, and of course transport was required. Mine.
Over the following couple of months or so, I’d watch and listen to them together, and could find no common ground apart from the hairdressing thing. They were nothing alike in either appearance or personality.
One’s house was always in a mess and dirty yet the other kept hers clean and tidy. This was no doubt out of necessity as her husband was in a wheelchair and so clutter could not be allowed to accumulate. Saying that though, her home is still well presented. When the other was in hospital overnight because of her leg, I took one of our sleeping bags and slept in her lounge as I was concerned about the dog. First things first though, I hoovered where I could see as I will not invade privacy behind closed doors, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen, and washed up a variety of cups, dishes, plates and cutlery that had been there for a good few days.
There is obviously some form of sibling rivalry though, as the eldest does not like to share, be it anything or anyone. She expects everyone to be available and agreeable to whatever she wants whenever she wants it, and heaven help you if you say ‘No’ for any reason. I have now been referred to as ‘stuck up’, ‘tight’, and ‘a cow’. (Nice, and from someone I considered to be a friend).
The younger on the other hand is pleased to see or hear from you whenever you can spare the time and doesn’t ask or expect anything of or from you. She is however extremely anxious that people see her in a similar light to her sister, though nothing could be further from our minds.
Over the years, I have bought both a Christmas present, each different, but of equal value. One Christmas morning we witnessed the elder sister tearing into the wrappings of a huge pile of gifts, taking no interest whatsoever in who they were from, just what they were and how much she had. Ours was treated equally brusquely, then tossed onto the pile as she attacked the next one.
Her sister, who we visited afterwards, savoured the opening of our parcel, and we noticed that she had kept the label with each of her other gifts so that she could thank the sender personally. (By the way, any gifts we’re given are put under the tree to be opened after dinner on Christmas Day, and we always follow up with a thank you note. Both are old habits from my childhood) .
The past few years have been financially challenging to us so I bought token gifts (hand creams, soaps, sweets etc) for friends last year, wrapping them all up as crackers of various sizes complete with motto. Most people appreciated our efforts. This year I’ve been amazed at what variety is available for just £1, so I’ve been able to buy several items and band them together. Whilst the elder sister has got a large box of her favoured chocolate assortment which were on special offer when I saw them, in contrast, I got a lot of pleasure making up a goodie bag for the younger.There are silly things in it, all individually wrapped but I know this kind of present would not be appreciated by her sibling. I’m confident too that she’ll have a laugh or two when she opens them.
I learned a long time ago that it’s not what you’re given or how much it costs, but the thought that goes behind it. Everyone is an individual and I’ve always tried to give someone something that suits them personally. Some people are really easy to please, but unfortunately for others ‘everything’ will never be enough.
And if you don’t deliver what’s expected? Your friendship is terminated, but not by you.
It’s funny, but you can understand this of young people. However, these ladies are both in their 70s!