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My Sister's Keeper

As told to Rhona Lewis

Last year, when my 17-year-old sister came home from her first meeting with a top psychiatrist, I became her keeper.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

heart with keyI suppose that Ahuvi has always been a little different; we just didn’t worry about it. Socially awkward and academically weak, she could never quite find her place in her peer group. But at home it was different. As the youngest in our large family, she got a lot of love and spoiling from all of us and we expected that to make up for the rejection she faced in school.

Once I was married and became a mother myself, I knew that I could rely on Ahuvi to babysit for my children. As the other siblings married, they also handed over nephews and nieces to Ahuvi. She had endless patience for colicky babies, even waking up at night to take over whenever we spent Shabbos back at home. As the babies grew older, she began organizing little camps for them. Ahuvi was also my mother’s right hand, helping to shop, cook, and clean for the Shabbos get-togethers that my mother organized regularly to keep the family close. At home, Ahuvi was a star.

Then things changed. She was already 17 when our mother gave birth to twins. It was a terribly complicated birth and it left my mother drained and weak; it would take months for her to fully recover. Our home changed from being a hub of activity to a hushed nursery where either one of the twins or my mother was always resting. Ahuvi lost her revered status as family babysitter and Shabbos coordinator.

Add to this the enormous pressure of exams — which she had little chance of succeeding in — and acceptance into seminary for the following year, and you can well imagine that even the strongest among us would begin to quake. When Ahuvi came back from winter camp, a two-day sleepover that was supposed to be the highlight of the winter semester, my mother knew something had gone terribly wrong. Patient and gentle Ahuvi had been replaced by an angry monster who spent much of her day crying and yelling that no one cared about her.

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