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Friday, July 17, 2015

Only One Sister

Mention has been made elsewhere in this blog of some of the effects my father's actions had on his children. Yes, I know that he likely suffered in numerous ways during World War II and his time as a prisoner of war in a Soviet camp. He came home to a country under the control of the same people who had imprisoned him, and their treatment of the people in his village was horrific. When the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 failed, he was slated for execution, along with my mother and my siblings, who ranged from three to six years of age. He left his family, his home, and his country to save all of their lives.

The seven years that I had with my parents before my father brutally killed my mother have mostly been hidden deep in my memory. What the brain cannot bear to remember is often hidden deep in its memory storage. I remembered very few details for many years. Occasionally a memory would pop to the surface like the bubbles in a mental glass of champage. Sometimes the popping of the bubbles is pleasant, and at other times it can cause confusion or pain, just like when the champagne either tickles or irritates the nose.

Some years ago, our sister Margit came to visit Liz and I here in Colorado. An unfortunate result of the family being shattered is that Liz and I grew up apart from Margit and our brother John. The love is still there, but the natural closeness never had a chance to develop. In fact, during the time that I lived with Alice, she would ridicule my two oldest siblings at any opportunity. They were called crazy and weird and scary, which put them right in line with Alice's opinions of me. 

Anyway, when Margit visited on this occasion, she kept after Liz and I constantly, asking what we remembered about our parents, and specifically our father. This got to be a strain on us since we have blocked out so much, and we finally had to tell her that we'd shared everything that we could remember. We asked her to drop the subject since we couldn't think of anything else to share with her.

Several years later, when the years of experiences had taken their toll on my mental and emotional state, I had a breakdown of sorts. I began to remember some things that were previously forgotten, mostly snippets, some of which were good and some of which were awful. I wanted to know what had made my father the person he had been. I also wanted to remember more of what was lost to me. I would remember something and sometimes ask Liz if she remembered it as well, or if she knew the why behind things that had happened.

One day I decided to email my sister Margit, who lives in Ohio, and ask her to share some of her memories with me. I thought it was only fair; she had asked us what we remembered, so now I wanted to ask her the same question in return. What I received in reply shocked me and left me full of anger. I was told that my sister was no beggar girl, and that she had begged us for information that we refused to share. She said some things about being angry that we did not come to her daughter's wedding more than a year earlier. Neither Liz nor I had been able to take any time off of work. In fact, I was saving my vaction time for a live-organ-donor transplant for Trent that unfortunately ended up not happening. 

She reminded me of my birth name, which had been an Anglicized version of my mother's name, and told me that I was named after my mother. I already knew my name and where it came from, so that wasn't of much help. She also said one or two things about my father that were interesting, but not helpful. But most importantly, she refused to share any information, claiming that this was how we had treated her. I replied to every claim and insult in her email one by one, knowing that this might be the last time we ever communicated. I also knew that no communication at all would be better than us always attacking one another and defending ourselves from the other's onslaught. And with my mental state, suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I couldn't handle the additional strain.

Last August, my brother died. He also lived in Ohio, and had lived with Margit at one point. Like Liz and me, they were the only siblings near one another. I tried to do the right thing by reaching out to Margit and calling her. She was very calm and seemed unaffected, and rushed me off the phone after telling me there would be no funeral. When I looked at the online obituary for John, I saw what might signal the final blow to the relationship amongst these three sisters. The biography said that John was survived by his sister Margit (and her husband Harlan) and niece Johanna who loved him unconditionally. No mention was made of his other two sisters or his other niece. We had been written out of existence.

Since this, I have felt, sadly, that because of the divide my father accidentally created among his offspring, I now have only one sister. I feared this in the last several years, but it would seem as if the obituary signalled the complete breakup of our family. Even though I am the youngest of four children, the distances between those of us who remain living are far greater than what can be attributed to geography. And I have been told, because of what remained unsaid, that I have only one sister.