From now on, when I think of truly honest people, I will think of Renee S. In Chicago, we met with Claire’s friend’s mom and I can definitely say that the next time I am in Chicago, I will be taking her out to coffee. She spoke with eloquence and integrity about her older sister whom her parents always described as “slow” and was determined to have a very low IQ when she was five-years-old. Though incredibly high-functioning and extremely emotionally intelligent, doctors told Renee’s parents that her sister should be institutionalized because she was, as characterized then, mentally retarded. However, her parents refused to send their daughter to one of these places. Most of this negation of that option came from the fact that Renee’s parents were both Holocaust survivors. Though slightly unrelated to her experience as a sib, below is a description of how she thinks that her parents background affect their parental choice.
Even though there was a five-year age gap between she and her sister, her mother insisted that they flourish “like twins,” buying them the same outfits and pressuring Renee to take her sister with her whenever she went out.
Even after she got married her mother still had the feeling “whatever I had, my sister should have.” Now that both of her parents have passed, Renee is her sister’s legal guardian. After many years, she has built the courage to find a life her sister is a large part of and a life that is not centered around her sister. She finds her sister activities and takes her out every week and plays a huge role in her sister’s caretaking. “I know that it is up to me and there is no one else and I have to do it,” she told us. In her interview, she called this distinction selfishness, but I commend her for her bravery in taking up more space, something she was unable to do during childhood. It is even more exemplary to note that she does all of this by herself, as her older brother is rarely in the picture regarding helping her sister. She has taken her challenges in strides. In this next clip, Renee talks about how difficult it was for her to always be looped into the same boat with her sister.
She also told us about her parental communication regarding her sister.
Now that she is in this caretaking role, she also confided in us about her goals for the future regarding her sister, aside from the common difficulty of finding the correct housing situation for her (right now, her sister lives in her late parents’ house with live-in care).
Another incredibly interesting note that she had to offer was how she explained her sister to her four boys. Actually, she told us she didn’t have to do too much of the talking at all, because of this story that occurred when her boys were in middle school that helped acclimate their knowledge of their aunt.
As a sib, we hope more people can hear Renee’s story, because this blog post definitely does not do it justice. She, too, highlighted the need for our project, exhibited in this clip below.
We absolutely loved hearing Renee’s story and going out to a real, Chicago-pizza dinner with her family afterwards.