A Lifetime Ago

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Whilst visiting the parentals recently I came across this photograph; that’s me on the left, such a cutie then! The girl on the right is my older sister. She passed away a month after my second birthday from neuroblastoma in 1981.

This photo surely captures a classic sisterly moment as we were close as toddlers and adored playing together, so I’m told. Sadly I have no recollections of her as a person, no matter how hard I look at photos like this. Though in my defence I was pretty little. I do have some very early memories, from aged 18 months to 2, that would have occurred whilst my sister was still alive. One is of dad building a sandpit in our backyard. There is a photo of us two sisters in the sandpit.

The other memory is visiting a friend of my parents and spending the day with her. I regularly spent the day with her and her 3 year old son while my parents spent nearly all of their waking moments with my sister at the hospital having her chemotherapy treatments. Most days I was out the door early, bag packed and being minded by friends and family. The only day I remember from that time was this one day, I was going with this friend to pick up her son from pre school. I distinctly remember seeing him sitting in the kindy and thinking he was so big and grown up, he goes to pre school! I can’t wait till I’m big enough to go to pre school. Such a strong memory from such an early age.

I have read that our earliest memories are built on ‘out of the ordinary’ moments that differed from everyday life. So you don’t remember people necessarily, or the interior of your first bedrooms and playrooms, but breaking an arm, being stung by a bee, going somewhere different, these are the things that stick out. This would explain why I have no recollections of my sister.

Such a lifetime ago, her short life and its impact on mine. In a blink of an eye I went from being the youngest sibling, to an only child, to the oldest when my brother was born 18 months later. Technically I am a middle child, but nurture won out on nature, I am the epitome of an ‘oldest’ sibling.

How different life would have been to have grown up with an older sister, I wonder if we would have been close.

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