Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Familiar Roles

My youngest sister called me in a panic today.

Mickdizzle moving in to her dorm Freshman year at Ohio University

Mickdizzle was once the center of my world. She's ten years my junior, so on many occasions I stepped in as Mother #2 - changing her diapers, feeding her and getting her to go night night.

God, how she loved hanging in that tree in our front yard.

Now Mickdizzle is a big girl - a sophomore in college, with nary a need to ask her bigger, wiser (older) sister for advice. In fact, she pretty much hates it whenever I share a nugget I think she'd benefit from.

But today - today she called me in a time of crisis. And I was glad to be there.

Mick was in a panic and she needed some support STAT. Usually our dad is her Go To Guy when Mickdizzle needs to calm down, needs a wise voice to help put her worries in perspective. But today my dad was having surgery (nothing significant) and so Mick was a bit lost, struggling to turn somewhere.

My phone rang at about 12:32.

A minute later and I would have been gone, busy in the work break room heating up my Kroger brand chicken-and-rice lunch tub. But Mick called at the perfect time (things have a way of working like that sometimes) and I was a bit caught off guard when I saw her name on the caller ID - only because she never calls me.

"Where's Mom and Dad?"

I didn't hold it against her that she first asked where our parents are. It's natural, after all, for a child to seek the wisdom and comfort a parent can offer during a time of crisis.

But a big sister comes in at a close second.

I explained to her about the surgery and then got to the bottom of the crisis.

I could barely make it out through the crying on the other end of the line, but eventually I learned Mick was freaking out because of a test she had in three hours. On top of that, Mickdizzle was battling a cold and she was concerned the codeine-filled medication dispensed by the university health service was causing an awful stomach ache.

In hindsight it seems like a pretty simple scenario, but Mick's my sister and at the time I didn't want to measure the magnitude of her crisis - I just wanted to help her cope.

I started talking in a calm, soft tone - What's your test on? Tell me about your cold. What's wrong with your stomach?

I told Mickdizzle what Mom would give me when I had an upset stomach - 7 Up or ginger ale. I told her that would probably settle things, and then I worked on getting her focused for the test. After several minutes of calm discussion to get her focused on the task at hand, Mick had stopped crying and sounded pretty in control.

Mickie on Christmas Day 2005.

I was able to mask my joy during the phone call, shouting in my head "She needs me! She needs me!"

Lately I've been worried about my relationship with Mickdizzle. Worried about whether we'll ever grow close. Worried about whether she actually cared about me. She's in that phase where she thinks she's cooler than the rest of the family and so we all basically dote on her, pining for a sliver of attention.

I know that next time I see Mick she'll probably be snarky and fierce and aloof.

But I think I know she loves me, and today proves she needs me.

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