The world can be such a sad place, so full of disappointment. Not the world itself per se but the people who inhabit it: Folks whose hearts are cold and cruel and only self-serving. Individuals who, by rights and connections – none of their own making really but there you have it – should be the guardians and nurturers and caretakers of those closest to them but fail utterly in that regard. Relationships where love and gentle regard is sorely absent.

It’s sad to discover there are members of the human race who possess these traits of ugliness, brutality and disregard. When the knowledge that the world is filled with this caliber of humanity becomes apparent to us, it’s as devastating as when a young child first discerns there really is no Santa Claus, if the child was fortunate enough, that is, to have lived in a family where the perpetuation of this loving tradition was cultivated in the first place. To recognize that some children have never even had that… Well, that’s a sad realization in and of itself, is it not?

I won’t lie. I still struggle with resentments of my own. My father drank a lot and rarely put his wife’s and his children’s well being before his own. He was a good provider, however, and did love all of us, of that I am certain. Perhaps it was just the era but I don’t really fault him for this. I can’t explain why. So the duties of child-rearing fell to our mother and with a husband who drank and six girls under the age of ten to raise, I can only imagine how difficult it was for her.

I suppose, then, that I should be a bit more charitable and excuse her for her lack of affection, for her utter disinterest in nurturing us (maybe she just didn’t know how?). For failing to foster strong sisterly bonds (rather, she chose to exploit and corrupt them instead). For her, then and even now still, her only regard was and is herself. Her neediness seems to know no bounds. And, here I am sixty years old and it still rankles. Especially when she bemoans the fact that the six of us don’t get along well at times. In her mind, she apparently thinks she was a perfectly wonderful mother and does not believe there is any cause for her to feel regret or remorse. Oh yes, that rankles too.

Sigh. I know it could have been worse, glaringly, shockingly, horrifyingly worse. I get it. We weren’t abused – not physically, anyway – but still we’ve spent a lifetime of distrust. A lifetime that could have been spent as friends, we sisters, where we had each other’s back instead of using them as targets. We could have spent these years delighting in each other’s company rather than merely tolerating our sibling relationships. This small artifact of truth, that our mother does not recognize this consequence, this fall-out of her non-mothering, speaks volumes of her refusal to accept responsibility for her own actions – all the while she readily chomps at our own failings and misdeeds.

Yes. I need to move on. And quite often, I feel that I have. But every so often I’ll read or see or observe others’ realities, and the niceness of their relationships, and I’m hit on the head – soundly! – with what we were denied. It’s less – much less – than the brutality and depravity of much of what lies in the world, I know that. I do. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less, not for me, for my five sisters and me, that our childhoods, our family’s bones were so lacking in love, nurturance, warmth, safety and structure.

There is beauty and love and resilience and nurturing in the world, this I know too. I must strive to seek it on my own, and to find it within myself. The past is the past and while I know it will always serve up small reminders of what was (and what was not), I must actively choose to see it for what it was and nothing more. I’ll get there. I’ll be fine. Sometimes, a body just has to fess up and recognize those nagging voices from the past, deal with them, and push forward. Get right with one’s own soul and enjoy the sunshine of today.

I have five sisters. But we ain’t got no sisterhood — that, you can bank on.

Oh, we go through the motions. We hug each other when we reunite after a long period of no interactions and then again when we part ways. We may occasionally end our texts and our phone calls with a cursory ‘love ya’ but there’s no undercurrent of stability or history or bonding there to support these proclamations. Not really….

This week, while doing some spring cleaning, I unearthed some old journals of mine, a few of which go back ten years or more. I made myself comfortable, sat down with a hot cup of tea and read through every one of them. A recurring theme, scrawled in my messy cursive which has since given way to a neater, tighter printed hand, was the hurt and anger and the renewed insistence on my part – time and time again – that I was going to, once and for all, keep my distance from my siblings. I was no longer going to allow myself to be disappointed and frustrated, I was tired of trying to fit in and be accepted and liked by them. And yet, I still tried.

How was it that my friends and co-workers found me to be a positive, fun and creative person but in the company of my sisters I was often little more than a bumbling incompetent, someone who’d made too many poor life choices, someone whose comments were often ignored, mocked or berated? I so wanted their approval. I wanted them to, a la Sally Field, simply just ‘like’ me – was that too much to ask for? Above all, I very much wanted the six of us, as well, to delight in and seek out each other’s company. I wanted the media-fed image of sisters as best friends, to experience a camaraderie amongst those of us who had been born to the same mother and father.

It’s gotten somewhat better over the years although a recent interaction makes me question even what little gains I thought had been made. And now, at age sixty, as the oldest of six girls, I should perhaps be wiser (and serene in that ‘wisdom’) but I still find myself feeling only cynicism and a grudging acceptance that what we are, what we have, of what our sisterly relationships have become, as being cast in stone. Knowing this, accepting this, realizing this may help me to manage my expectations but it doesn’t make this reality any less sad for me – or for any of us, really.