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Monday, January 9, 2012

Ohana, Yoga and Sisters...

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2012!
Had THE best breakfast with my sister today.
We meet about once a month at the tiny little restaurant called Ohana…which is perfect since that means family.  Anyone and everyone who goes there knows it’s THE best place for breakfast in Huntington Beach, if nothing more than for the excellent coffee and familiar faces of both the staff and regular patrons.
Every time we meet, I’m left with warmth in my heart that keeps me lifted all day long.  Today was an exceptionally marvelous morning because we were blessed with the kind of weather that only Southern Californians know as summer in January. 
I made it to my yoga class in time to relax and acclimate to the 98* temperature.  I settled nicely into my asana’s with ease and flexibility.  I laughed and smiled when I fell out of dancer’s pose rather than scrunching up my face and feeling frustrated for not executing the perfect arch in my back with my arm outstretched.  I simply picked up where I left off. 
Then, at the end of class I cried.
I didn’t cry because I was tired or hurt or sore.  I cried because I was feeling so overcome by emotions of happiness and at the same time, feelings of loss and sadness for both my sister and me. 
We lost our dad a little over two years ago.  That’s not so unusual you might think, but our story is not one that is what you would call “ordinary.”  We didn’t grow up together; in fact we didn’t even know each other until I was 10 years old. 
She turned 18 that year and a comment by my grandpa’s old friend suddenly triggered a series of questions that would lead to my discovery of the long lost sister I had always dreamed of having.
But the story is not quite so glamorous. 
We met and she WAS everything I had dreamed and hoped she would be.  We got together a few times over the next couple of years with our Dad in tow, and it always struck me as funny when she would call him Harry.  It seemed so odd to me that she didn’t call him Dad; my immature mind couldn’t process all of the emotional baggage she might have carried around the years prior to our meeting.
Dad had made the decision to allow her step-father to adopt her shortly after I was born.  My parents thought it would be best to keep her a secret, to protect my feelings I suppose.  But, the cat got out of the proverbial bag and there was certainly some ‘splaining to do. 
At any rate, time passed and we both grew older, me into an angst filled teen with certain daily drama, she into a young college girl with a life of her own to establish.  We lost touch and it was an odd and strange time.  I can remember feeling sad that our relationship had crumbled but I quickly got caught up in my friends or a boy and those feelings were shelved and replaced with new ones. 
Unbeknownst to me, Dad had continued to have a relationship with her. I thought they had stopped talking again and it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized they had been meeting for breakfast or coffee for years.  That really stirred up a sense of betrayal and sadness that I felt toward both of them, but really it was Dad I held accountable. Once I took a minute to think about how she might have felt, I blamed Dad entirely.  The good news was that he took responsibility for it.  The bad news is that she, then married and settled into her life, moved to Africa to spread the word of her faith.
In the years that followed, I did a lot of soul searching.  I realized that I desperately wanted a relationship with my big sister and not only that, I deserved it.  I wanted to know about this mystery woman who shared half my DNA and I hoped for the day we could meet again.
A few years later, she, her husband and young son returned home for a six month sabbatical. Finally, Dad would help orchestrate the meeting that I longed for.  I had a son of my own then; turns out the boys are less than a year apart. 
We met at a park, a neutral place where the boys could climb and run and jump like the busy toddlers they were.  Dad basked in the glow of having both his daughters and his grandsons in the same place at the same time for the first time ever. 
We met two more times before they had to return to Uganda.  Although these times were fairly brief, I felt a deep sense of hope and gratitude that our relationship would blossom like a tiny seedling.  It would just need to be cared for gingerly and its delicate roots would soon become strong, hearty and unbreakable.
With the power of the Internet, we began to get to know one another through monthly emails.  Little by little, we grew closer and the bond deeper.  In the months and years that followed, I began to cherish the relationship we were developing as much as I cherished my marriage and the bonds I shared with my parents.
Being raised an only child; one can never quite imagine what it’s like to have siblings.  I never knew that feeling of having to share, or wanting to for that matter.  I was blessed (and I say blessed now, 25 years later but then I thought it was a curse) with three step-brothers when I was 15 but until then, it had been just me. 
This feeling was different, and it felt new, strange and invigorating.
So when she moved back to California about nine years ago, I could not have been more thrilled. Since then, we have spent Christmas’s, birthdays and breakfasts of our own together on a pretty regular basis.  She has been there for me when I've needed her and I hope I have done the same. We both have two kids of our own (boys and girls) and they are growing up as (mostly) loving cousins, it’s awesome!
The thing is, this is also new to her.  For 18 years, she was an only child too, except for knowing that there was this mysterious little girl out there who was here baby sister. 
Now, we live less than a mile away and our relationship is stronger than ever.  It’s new to both of us so we are just sort of carving out our definition of what it means to be sisters and I admit; sometimes we’ve tried to figure out how it works and the kinks that come with being a family altogether.  The good news is that we seem to have found a groove and it’s a dance that we can both move equally well to.
So this morning, as we had our “usual” at our favorite restaurant in Huntington, it was one of those days where I just looked at her and realized how lucky I am to have her as my big sister.  Then, when our favorite busboy, the kindest guy who will pour coffee endlessly and always share a smile, said in a bit of broken English “Yaaa, sisters.  I see it in your faces,” I almost cried. 
That connection, that love and that bond, I am forever grateful for.  And although we both miss him tremendously, he gave us the gift of our somewhat unconventional sisterhood, and I know that our Dad is looking over us, smiling and happy that his girls are together again and that we are meeting for breakfast and coffee…
Oh and what all this has to do with Yoga you ask?  Well, get this, Kath digs it too.

This blog is dedicated to my big sister Kathy, whom I love, admire and adore.

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