As you can see, my older sister and I look very much alike. We’re often confused as twins. Therese used to teach music in our hometown. Whenever I go home to hang out with my parents, I always pay a visit to my favorite ice-creamery. I’ll be minding my own business, enjoying my ice-cream cone lick-by-lick when suddenly, a bunch of school kids will come running up to me screaming, “Miss Therese! Miss Therese!”
“Whoah-whoah…watch the ice-cream,” I’d caution. “I’m not Therese. I’m her sister.” I pitied the kids as they always looked so confused. Then they’d scurry back to their parents and their parents would concur, “Yes, I know, she looks just like Therese.”
My sister and I even have the same voice. Our own mother can’t tell the difference on the phone. When we all lived under one roof, my mom would call from work and it didn’t matter which one of us answered. She always got it wrong. “Hi Mommy.” “Oh Therese.” “No, it’s me.” “Oh Cat…let me talk to your dad.”
Even though my sister and I look alike, even though we have the same parents, and were raised in the same strict household, we couldn’t be any more different. We’re polar opposites.
When we were growing up, my dad took us to the library all the time. While Therese sifted through a bunch of arts and crafts books, I would be engrossed in Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations.” I read voraciously as I couldn’t wait to find out whether Pip would end up with that cold-hearted bitch Estella. That’s how I passed my free time, reading one literary classic after another. Everything I learned was in my head.
Therese, on the other hand, would have a thousand origami cranes strung from one side of the bedroom wall to another. I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler let alone craft an animal out of a square piece of paper. Her side of the room was filled with cute decorations. My side of the room had one big map. I was really into memorizing things for some dumb reason—countries and capitals, the U.S. presidents.
Therese can sew, cook, program and fix any household appliance. She’s very musically inclined. She can pick up any musical instrument. She’s got perfect pitch. She’s also great at navigating; she never gets lost. Although she never gets lost, she’s constantly misplacing things.
Whereas I always get lost. I need explicit directions to get me from Point A to Point B. Explicit. But I never lose anything. On the very rare occasion, I do lose something, I know exactly where I lost it and can usually go back in time to retrieve it.
Despite our differences, I’ve always been struck by how close the two of us are. There is one thing that will always stand out in my mind. During high school, before bedtime, I would have actual conversations with my sister while I was brushing my teeth. With toothpaste and toothbrush in my mouth, I would mumble away. No words were coming out of my mouth. Only garbled noises. But Therese would know exactly what I was saying. “Alright, I’ll come pick you up after cheerleading practice around 4.” It was astonishing.
I didn’t grow up with a brother so I can’t say if this applies across siblings, or whether it’s between a sister and a sister or a brother and a brother, or maybe it was just Therese and I…but I have a bond with my sister that is stronger than any other relationship I’ve had in my life. I’m sure that Therese will say that her husband completes her and he does. I don’t think there are two people in the world who are more perfect for each other. Like my brother-in-law, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without my sister.
I’ve always wondered whether other siblings have experienced the same thing. It makes me awfully sad whenever I hear someone isn’t close to their family or their brothers and sisters. I believe there are only a few forms of unconditional love. True unconditional love between two partners is rare. That’s a fact. But there’s God’s love, there’s parental love, and there’s family love. Unconditional and forever.