My younger sister Jolie and I are five years apart. We were playmates from the beginning, and it seems that her maturity accelerated to keep up with mine. I got a cellphone after years of waiting, and the next week she got a cellphone. When it comes to a Verizon Wireless family package, five years doesn’t matter. With a death of a parent, five years means the world.
She was nine when he was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis was sugar coated with “Daddy is sick.” I got the full rundown of his chemotherapy regimen. I remember that Jolie wanted to name his tumor, and my parents explained to her that she had to give it a bad name, because we wanted the tumor to go away. It was late in 2008, and we named the tumor George W. Bush.
You might think that because of age difference, Roy’s illness was tougher on me than her. You would be wrong. I got to avoid so many things, emotional and physical, with the excuse of high school. Jolie got dragged to hospital visits, and
grew up confused as to why the father that used to give her everything was now unavailable and irritable. Weirdly, my dad didn’t help the situation. He and Jolie had a lot in common – curly hair, self-confidence, and a bad temper. She would make silly demands to go shopping in a desperate attempt for normalcy, and he was blind to this. He snapped at her and made her cry a lot. My dad was in an excruciating amount of pain most days, and I understand how anger management could be difficult. However, on some level I can never forgive him for not seeing Jolie’s cries of help, when they were so similar to his own.
Two days after Jolie turned eleven, our dad passed away. Sometimes I resent that I had to pick up the pieces of my broken family after his death, although I am sure all of us feel that way at times. Sometimes I have a short temper too, but when I yell at Jolie it brings her right back to the cancer. I’m angry that I can’t yell at my sister when she leaves her wet towels on the bathroom floor, like a normal older sibling, and even more angry that sometimes I do it anyway.
Jolie doesn’t like therapy. It is very hard for her to talk about her feelings, and I anxiously wait for the day that she’ll be able to start healing. Apparently, in her social life, Jolie is the advice guru amongst the tweens. She is known for being mature and understanding. Jolie is mature and understanding, but there is a side of her that only comes out at home. At home, I see an angry Daddy’s girl who has lost her Daddy. The feelings have to come out somewhere.
My therapists love to tell me that I’m not Jolie’s parent. I appreciate the sentiment, but I think that’s bull. I don’t like to think of my mother as a “single mom”, but that’s the reality – and it is a hard job. Sometimes, whether warranted or not, I feel the need to step in and try to raise Jolie. What I have recently come to understand is that Jolie feels this way too. Jolie saw a teenager who suffered through high school. Jolie sees a 19 year old that still needs to be cuddled. Jolie parents me and I parent her because we love each other and we want to help our mom. This is our reality.