I had a long talk with my amazing sister last night.
She is loving her teaching work, she has taken up water-color painting with her usual obsessive determination and drive. I rarely mention her, she did not like to be written about in my earlier books, so I stopped.
We share this trait of pursuing our passions with an almost frightening single-mindedness.
She is in a different place now, and so am I.
My sister and I rarely see one another – I haven't seen her in years – we do talk on the phone every few months, and I think we would both like to do better. She doesn't care to travel much, she works hard and loves to be at home with her dogs.
We were so close when we were kids, but out family came apart and life intervened, and we went very different ways.
On holidays, when most families gather, she loves to be with her animals. We have both accepted that our time together is occasional, it is just the way it turned out. And we are both almost literally allergic to drama and guilt, we just saw too much of it.
She is always changing, always open, always reading and listening and thinking.
She is shocked by the creative impulse drawing her to paint, but I am not. It seems the most natural thing in the world to me. My sister is smart and strong, and she has lived a hard and difficult love, and overcome much and never quit on life or on herself. She is her own person, living her own life.
I used to worry about her, and sometimes feel sorry for her, and that was a mistake and it hurt our relationship. It was patronizing, I was so focused on trying to help her that I didn't notice she could take care of herself.
She did not need my worry or pity.
I got over that, she can and does take care of herself and lives a full and productive and meaningful life. She is like one of those fabled warships that can take hit after hit, but never sink or founder.
And when she told me last night that she was the happiest she has ever been, I wanted to cry, and then did cry. I am so proud of her, and so happy for her.
And now, like me a few years ago with photography, her discovery of painting has opened her up to the color and light of the world, and I told her she would never be the same again, or see the world in the same way.
She has been acquiring paints and paper and easels, and paints almost every day.
She lives in a remote and very agricultural part of New York State, many miles from me. Her town makes Cambridge look like Brooklyn. She works every day.
Life is curious, and has led both of us city kids to the country, where it seems we both belong, two urban children.
Even though we rarely see each other, we are profoundly connected in the most powerful way – we both fought hard for each other when we were young, and we desperately needed an ally or friend. I will always remember bedtime, when she and I would talk for hours about the great troubles in our family and prop one another up.
I can't begin to count the number of times we ran a way together, usually to my grandmother's house, sometimes down to the railway station. We got up early, packed our clothes and set out together, hoping for help and refuge. We did not ever really find it, not until we could create it within ourselves.
Jane is the only person on the earth who knows what happened to me when I was young, and I am the only person who saw what happened to her. That sense of being known has always kept us together. It is something neither of us will ever speak of to anyone else.
It is a powerful thing to be known in that way, and it is a bond that can never break. I will always love my sister, even if it is sometimes hard for us to talk to one another.
I know what she has been through in life, and how brave and committed she has been to living her life and finding love and friendship. Her dogs have helped her, they are her true family, she says it again and again.
Last night we talked about her love of teaching needy or troubled kids, whether or not she should get a new Iphone with its great camera – she has discovered the clouds and the light in the open sky where she lives, and we talked about her dogs. Once in awhile, I can be of help, and that brings me joy.
She loves to tell the tales of her dogs and their mishaps, tragedies and adventures.
She is not a fan of small dogs and is bewildered by my getting Gus, I told her she would love Gus, she loves to laugh and he is a canine comedian. She says she just doesn't get it.
She always asks how I am, we have never stopped caring for one another, I will always remember how she tried to stand up for me, and how I tried to stand up for her. So here we are, having this great and happy conversation, just look at us. I told her this is the happiest time of my life as well, and imagine that, we both ended up in such a good place.
Listening to her last night, I was reminded once again of remarkable person she is, my amazing sister. She does not complain, there is no bitterness in her, she has a heart and soul full of love, she takes great care of herself, and has overcome so many hurdles to find what she needs.
It was a special gift to talk to her last night, she is sending me some of her photos, and I hope to share some of them with you. We will talk again before Thanksgiving, an important holiday for both of us, perhaps the only one.
My amazing sister.