I lived in Jacksonville, Florida in my early 20’s before moving to Kenosha, Wisconsin. I became a mom just two weeks after my 20th birthday. My sister graduated college. She was the first Kleszynski to achieve a college degree and I was proud of her and her future.
I would fly in often with my son Austin because Donny was out to sea. At first Austin was cranky with her because she was not comfortable with him. Over time, that subsided and they created a bond that till this day is indestructible. It was Austin that made the two of us want to try and hash out our differences.
This peaceful existence was short lived. By my late 20’s, I was a mother of two and had filed for divorce. I know for certain that my sister talked to my ex husband about my life. He confirmed that fact with me a long time ago.
I will never forget the day that he came home after being served divorce papers. He had invited my sister and mother to visit. I had been at work and when I returned things got heated between my soon to be ex-husband and myself. He took away all my credit cards, my checkbook and any access to finances. I stormed out of the house while they sat there in the living room with Austin and Chloe. They had no idea what had just happened in the basement.
They left, but later I met them at an Applebee’s restaurant nearby to tell them what had transpired. My mom was warned by a family member to come prepared with financial assistance. This person had a feeling that my ex-husband was planning to make things difficult for me. After hearing my story, my sister accompanied me to get Austin and Chloe from his care. I wanted them away from their father who was a drunk and had no clue how to be a dad to them. It was an incredible feeling to have her with me by my side when we went to get the kids. I was scared to be in his presence and we both just wanted the kids to be safe and out of harms way.
My sister and I were repairing our relationship and even becoming close when she found out that she was pregnant with her son. I was one of the first people to know that she was expecting. I was so happy for her that she was going to be mom.
Not everyone took the news of her pregnancy as well as I did. My sister waited a month or two before telling my dad that she was expecting. The conversation with my dad didn’t go as she had planned. Nonetheless, I was there for her. Immediately after their conversation, my sister called me in tears and recapped what was said. I felt I had to call my dad to console and comfort him and assure him that everything would be okay.
I understood some of the feelings that people were having. They felt angry and frustrated with her life decision because she had a degree but was not working. She was also living between my parents and her boyfriend’s house. She was not established. I was already a mother of two children, but there was no comparison between her pregnancy and mine if you ask me. I was in the military, engaged and not dependent on my family. My life was prospering. This gave me the ability to back her up in this new chapter of her life. I was there when she gave birth and I watched my nephew come into this world. Witnessing his birth was one of the best experiences of my life.
Four months after my nephew was born and right before Christmas we lost our aunt suddenly. Our aunt was a huge part of our sisterly relationship because she oftentimes served as our mediator. She helped when our relationship was estranged. I always wonder if she were alive today…would our relationship be different?
With the sudden death of my aunt, it seemed our relationship died suddenly as well. It was the night of my aunt’s funeral and my sister fell near her car with my nephew and broke her ankle. Christmas night she was using a potty chair in the kitchen and I must have made a rude comment about it in front of the entire family. My mom said something along these lines, “I hope this happens to you.” I replied, “I hope so too. And don’t worry, I live in Wisconsin and I will be taking care of myself and my kids.”
That was the day that I realized that relationships could change within a blink of an eye. My sister stayed in my parents’ living room to recover and so they could care for her and help with my nephew. She did not even feed him, let alone change his diaper. I was furious about the situation and expressed it very vocally. I didn’t like how she was taking advantage of my parents, especially my mom, for MONTHS! I know my anger was because I was frustrated that I had to be the strong one, the prospering single mom and because I was not dependent on others.
By Easter, my mom was getting tired of taking care of my sister. From what I gathered, my Mom had told her she had no choice but to become independent soon because they were going on a trip to Florida with friends for a well deserved vacation. I’ll be damned, as soon as they left for Florida, she figured out how to care for herself. Isn’t that amazing? I have noticed that motherhood can really change someone once they learn to embrace the gift that has been given to them. I believe my nephew was exactly what my sister needed in her life. He helped her realize life is not about her anymore and that it was time for her to step up to responsibilities.
I love my nephew like my own child and she loves Austin and Chloe like her own. I am happy to say that no matter what disagreements we have had, we have never taken it out on the kids. The kids were not the reasons for our arguments with one another and we kept them out of it. The kids were the reasons why everything in my late 20’s was going pretty well with my sister though. Our relationship wasn’t perfect by far but we learned to fight more like “normal” siblings if that makes any sense. Our relationship was what I had always wanted to have with her–to be more like sisters rather than competitors and enemies.
Was Barbara Alpert’s quote going to come true for us?
“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.”