Kvell–to be extraordinarily proud; to rejoice (Yiddish)
My sister and I have spent decades in adversarial relationship. Being four years younger, I was in college in the 60’s, seeing myself as a marginal character, edgy and not-a-part-of. Although I was a nice Jewish girl, I was a hippy-wanna-be, and regularly smoked enough pot to transport myself energetically from New Jersey to Haight Ashbury. My sister, four years older, was of another generation, one of fraternities and sororities (I, too, was a sorority sister, but hung out with the stoners and was always and secretly in love with someone). My sister was and still is more conservative, more appropriately living the role given her.
Me? Nope. I’ve had to forge my own way. Roles never fit–I’ve had to journey toward my authentic self. Coming out as a lesbian. Getting sober. Claiming my spiritual path. Nothing too pre-ordained has fit me well. And, it’s not over yet, as the title of my new book reminds me.
And as my parents aged and our relationships to them shifted, as they needed our support and attention differently, the gap between my sister and me grew. She was more traditional, more medically-centered in her response to them. I was more emotional and more holistic in what I wanted for them. Our differences and our clashes got worse as my parents each aged and died.
The post-parential landscape, however, was different. I looked around. Support had thinned out. I was now the next one up for aging and dying, a very uncomfortable realization. My sister and I eyed each other carefully, and slowly, found our way toward each other. Over these past six years since our mom’s death, we have become a real support for each other.
And new territory has been forged! She and her husband visited for the past few days. In my twenty-five years as a Berkshire resident, she had only been here a few times. It was a major shift for her to come here, rather than for me to travel to suburbia, to her world, in which to meet.
In Twelve Step, we talk about “not giving up before the miracle”. Clearly these few days have been a miracle. To be with my sister on my terms, in my territory, in my home, at my work, in my office–this is all new and quite remarkable. And it all unfolded with ease and fun, laughter and connection.
I think we have outlived the obstacles that kept us separate!
I remember that fabulous quote from Ulpaladev’a Shiva-Stotra:
“There is no other happiness here in this moment
Then to be of free of the thought
That I am different from you.”
Our mom is indeed kvelling in heaven.