October 6, 2019, marked a most splendid occasion. My baby sister celebrated her 40th birthday. Turn up! Like most decade birthdays, turning the big 4-0 is major, invoking a time for meaningful reflection of what once was (bemoaning our youth as it slowly fades), what is (celebrating the beautiful life we have created), and what will be (stirring up hopes and fears for an uncertain future as we grow older).
For me, my sister’s 40th birthday pokes and prods, a clear reminder of my own waning youth as 50 looms in the background. But her birthday also reminds of the precious relationship we share, one that has grown and matured over time just as we have; and, I want to honor her.
While my initial memories of infant Tina are hazy, I vividly recall two things – she was a beautiful baby with a head full of silky black curls and big, bright eyes and my ferocious sense of ownership; she was MY baby sister. Both still ring true today. I am my sister’s keeper. I am her protector. I have her front, back, and sides. I hold her down and lift her up. I am her BIG sister.
In high school and college, I found her more of an annoyance, always wanting to borrow my clothes and keep her nose in my business. Ha! However, our relationship gradually deepened while I was in medical school and she was in graduate school. Now, years later, we are both married with four kids between the two of us.
The almost four-year age gap is no longer relevant as she teaches me (almost) as much as I teach her. Most mornings, I call her on my way to work. We commiserate, swap marriage and parenting advice, discuss possible business ventures, and plan family vacations. She prays with me and for me, believes in me, encourages me, and challenges me to be a better version of myself every day. I trust her with my innermost fears, the secrets I barely wish to utter aloud let alone face, and we tackle them together. She knows the broken places and spreads her love like a soothing balm. She tells me the truth even when I want no parts of it.
She loves my husband and her nieces and nephew. She honors and respects our parents. She is brilliant, celebrated by her colleagues. She is kind and compassionate, adored by her family and friends. And, she is so incredibly beautiful yet humble, admired by so many. She is my sister, my first best friend.
I love you so much, Tina. I wish you the happiest of birthdays!