For Q, Who I Love

I owe someone something. And it’s not the 20 bucks I owe you for that time you spotted me for drinks. It’s not the kick up the arse I owe Bill O’Reilly for just being a dick. It’s not the thousands of bucks I owe to my parents for the braces they put on my teeth, the effects of which I negated by eating too many Jolly Ranchers. In truth, I owe my sister a wedding speech.

The day my sister was married, I stood up after a large dinner (… all right, I might have been a little, nay a lot drunk) and blathered on about how great her dog, her TV and her new husband were, rather than what I had meant to do which was to extol the values of a fantastic sibling. So, approximately 5-ish years later, I will soberly approach a tribute to my sister, Q.

Growing up, my now patient, introverted, no-nonsense sister was loud, wild, unpredictable and … well, a little bossy. As our dad and grandfather were radio broadcasters, we would often create our own radio shows with our Fisher Price tape recorder (the tapes still exist – and though I threatened to play them at her wedding, I restrained myself.) She would be the news anchor, warning the world of escaped pandas and of all the murders occurring in Edmonton overnight (“but, don’t worry folks, no one was hurt.”) She was also the host of our numerous radio talk shows, interviewing me as I lamely pretended to be various characters but mostly whined about her hogging the mic.

My sister was first to make friends when, as kids, we moved from our home in Edmonton, Alberta, across the country to Toronto (where she also bravely fended off some very nasty bullies.) She was first to make friends when we settled in the then small town of Uxbridge, in rural Ontario. She was first to get involved in music. In fact, when people ask me about my training as a singer, she’s often the first person I list as informal tutor. My sister used to sing everywhere she went and I, following closely behind, would listen and envy and mimic every sound she made. Not many people know and she’ll tell you otherwise, but my sister sings like a dream.

As I started to develop my own personality as a rowdy theatre and music kid, my sister developed into a much more reserved and sensitive intellectual and athlete. I remember many a time bouncing over to her as she gabbed with her friends at our high school, I in my dress-over-jeans-black-hair-dye-fiasco-plastic-necklaced look, she in her super-hip-cinched-Gap-jeans-and-band-shirt look, to be met with her lip curled get-the-hell-outta-here wilting glare. As we grew from children into very different teenagers, I think for a while, she didn’t quite know what to do with me.

Though she disapproved of my weirdness, her instincts as protective big sister came into play, without fail, any time I was interested in a boy. More than once, as I spoke googly to some poor sod on the phone, she jumped on the line, fiercely inquiring about “your intentions with my sister.” Embarrassed, I would scream for my parents to intervene and curse her aggression as I sobbed melodramatically into my pillow. Oh, and P.S., her protective sister instinct also told on me for smoking pot and hanging around with the “wrong crowd” which was followed by two years of early nights and mistrust by my mom and dad. Admittedly there were a few douche-bags in that “wrong crowd” but she hung out with them too!

When it came time for us to leave the nest, she went off to University and I to Europe and there was a great shift in our relationship. I suppose it was inevitable as we were becoming adults. She wrote to me diligently while I was away at school in Norway, letters which I pored over, reading them again and again. She had made me a detailed album full of photos and memories to take with me. I felt like she finally knew I existed. At the end of my school year, she came over and met me and we travelled together. It was as if I was finally getting to meet someone I’d been dying to hang out with for years.

When she bought her first house with her long-time boyfriend, our relationship grew even closer. I was suddenly seeing her more in one month than I had seen her in the previous 10 years. She was finally letting me in. It was glorious. And the more I got to know her, the more I admired her drive and strength and fearlessness.

A little while after they were married, my sister and her husband brought my beloved niece into the world. I was filled with more joy and more love than I had ever imagined, as well as endless wonder as I watched her not only grow into a gorgeous little girl but a smart little cookie, talking from the time she could roll over. A couple of years later, my nephew was born and I fell madly in love with him too; his coy little smile, his determination to walk, his fondness for his big sister. Here were these two little pieces of a woman I already loved so much, in perfect little independent packages. And now, spending time with them all, I get to see her in yet another light, as a thoughtful, funny, hard-working and wonderful mother.

So this is for you, Q. A tribute to a woman who possesses such strength, such wisdom, such beauty, such courage that I can only stand back and admire you after sitting beside you, just feeling honoured to be your friend.

What I learned from this: If I ever meet the bitches who tormented my sister when we first moved to Toronto, you will read this headline the following day:
Wig and Denture Sales Sky-Rocket as Shaven Toothless Local Women Buy Up Stock With Broken Fingers.

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