Lois, my oldest sister, and I went to Minnesota over the weekend to spend time with my other sister Laurie. It is getting less surprising to me, but spending time with people with whom I’ve just shared that diagnosis was a wonderful time, a deep closeness between the three of us, including Laurie’s husband Paul. I had a much briefer time with Alex and Abbey, their grown children, but that time also was rich. The richness, I believe, comes from the increased sense of vulnerability we all feel. Both Laurie and Lois have their own sufferings that confront them. Both Laurie and her husband have been disabled for many years, she with multiple sclerosis and he with incapacitating back pain. Lois is still grieving the loss of her daughter fifteen months ago. Pain is additive, it seems. This ongoing loss of their brother adds to their vulnerability. Aside from the hours we spent watching all of the NFL play-offs (who would guess that my sisters would become rabid football fans?), we spent almost all of our time together, talking and just being present to one another.
I’ve mentioned it before but this increasing vulnerability is a great gift to me. I’ve been intellectually aware that I am vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life just like anyone else. During some of my bouts of more severe depression, I’ve known it experientially, too. However, I’ve basically considered myself a person who doesn’t need much from others. Our American myth is that such independence is the bedrock of the culture. But it’s based on a lie. None of us is independent; all of us have deep needs that can only be met by other people. While I may have recognized my vulnerability intellectually, there is all the difference in the world between my striving to overcome it in order to prove my independence, one the one hand and welcoming that vulnerability and experiencing its gifts, on the other.
Laurie, Lois and I have decided to get together more often. Now we just need to make it happen.
I still marvel at the reality that these last several months have been the richest period in my life.