Friday, August 9, 2013

Sibling Rivalry, Sister Edition

This is my sweet sister, Annabeth. See the sisterly love there? Unfortunately, we didn't always get along this well. My sister and I are actually eight years apart, which made for an interesting dynamic when we were growing up. I was in my "I'm so big and cool, I don't want a bratty shadow" phase, and my sister was in her "OMG, I'm the baby, I can't be left behind or I'll DIE" phase. I'm sure you can imagine the drama.

My brother David, who is four years younger than me, and I were very close growing up, and I am sad to say we did not welcome Annabeth into our duo. Whenever we would play Barbies (David was little with two sisters, ok? He didn't have a choice), David and I would make Annabeth the mother and send her on a "vacation" for the duration of the game. The "vacation" would entail Annabeth's Barbie camping out in the other room until we were done playing.

Annabeth found ways to get back at us, though. She played the youngest child card with surprising skill. She also had this amazing ability to tattle without getting herself into trouble. One time, she ran crying to mom and dad about something David and I had done to her, which of course got us in trouble. When the three of us were alone, Annabeth's tears immediately dried up and she started cackling at us. AHHHH, SO EVIL!!! On the rare occasions Annabeth got into trouble, she would start crying and say something like she missed our grandmother and TOTALLY get away without punishment.

As you can see, my brother and I had a tense relationship with our sister. It really was an "us" vs. "her" mentality. Looking back, I regret not having a special relationship with Annabeth like I did my brother. Everything changed for me, however, the day my sister almost died.

One summer, my family went tubing on the Frio River with some friends. There had been an unusual amount of rainfall that summer, so the river flowed quickly along its banks. This made for some exciting tubing, but you had to be careful. The current could easily carry you away. At the end of the tubing route was a bridge where the current looked slow, but it actually flowed very quickly as the bridge's supports squeezed the river through a smaller space. By the time Annabeth and I reached the bridge, everyone else had already gotten out.

Annabeth was further ahead of me when all of the sudden she disappeared on the other side of bridge. I didn't think anything of this at first. I just thought she would get out on the other side. When I got to the bridge, I used the supports to help pull myself towards the bank. The current surprised me with its strength and I could barely fight against it. Suddenly I heard Annabeth cry out, "help me!"

Being smaller than me, my sister did not have the strength to fight against the current. It had caught her tube and swept her under the bridge where she had nothing to help her towards the bank. I saw the panic in her eyes, even from a distance, and realized what a dangerous situation she was in. I let go of my tube and dove after her. With the fast current, I caught her before she got very far. Annabeth was thrashing, terrified of being out-of-control in the water. There was nothing for me to grab to slow us down, so I started dragging my feet along the bottom of the river. Fortunately, I caught a toehold which brought us to a stop.

Annabeth almost dislodged us with her struggling, so I gripped her tight and said, "Annabeth! I've got you, I promise. I won't let anything happen to you. Take some deep breaths with me. Tilt your head back so the water doesn't go up your nose".

We took some deep, calming breaths as I tried to plan what to do next. Annabeth had stopped struggling, but there was no way I could get us both to the bank. I tried to keep my panic at bay because I knew I had to be calm for my sister. Finally, a man on the bank called out to me. "Are you girls OK? Do you need some help?"

"Yes!" I called back. "Please help!"

The man waded into the river and gripped me tightly by the arm. He took Annabeth and me safely to the side, where our parents were waiting. They saw him taking us out of the river and realized something had gone wrong. I had been uncharacteristically calm during this ordeal, but once we were safe, I collapsed into tears. I had never been so afraid in my life. What if I had not been there or the current had carried Annabeth away faster? What if that man hadn't seen us? What would we have done? And worse, I realized I could have lost my sister to the river. Even though we did not have a great relationship up until that point, I realized what a fool I had been to squander my time with her. I realized how precious my sister is, and how poor life would be without her.

So while I am ashamed to say it took a near-death experience to make me appreciate my sister, I thank God it did happen. Today, my sister and I are much closer and I count her as one of my best friends. She is such a beautiful, strong woman. God built her to be the opposite of me, but instead of seeing this as an irritant like as did as a child, I see it now as a blessing. We are different, but we are strong together.