I don't know what my first memory of my sister is, but I like to tell people it's the time when I was still a baby and she, a toddler, was holding me on her lap, and she leaned over as if to kiss me but instead bit my ear. (She describes it now as if she meant to show me, her baby sister, affection, but was overcome by a wave of jealousy that somehow manifested into an ear bite.)
Megan is two years and twenty days older than me; she was born on my parents 10th wedding anniversary and I like to think many of her personality traits reflect the manner in which she was conceived: planned, organized, calculated, logical... (She will think I'm teasing there, but really, they are traits that I wish I carried more strongly. Or at all.) My growth spurt and puberty hit not long after hers did (I think because I was always trying to catch up and play with the big girls, maybe my body took a cue) and I used to make people guess who was older, and giggle with glee when they guessed me. In reflection, I shouldn't have been surprised many years later when after a couple bottles of wine my sister mentioned casually how much she hated me in high school.
Megan didn't go to college right away; instead, she went to South America and worked with orphans, learned Spanish, ate lots of street food, and got her first tattoo. Then she went to college, which included a year in Africa as well as a return trip to Bolivia to research her undergraduate honors thesis, and graduated about six months before I did. The years between then and now included two in the Peace Corps, three getting two masters degrees from an ivy-covered school in the Northeast, and lots of travel.
If Megan and I hadn't had Brendan to balance us out I think we may have actually hurt each other in middle or high school. He was often a little shit, but he was our little shit, and we loved him more than anything, and that was often the one thing we knew we had in common. The morning that Brendan died, and I called my sister after hanging up with my parents, knowing she already knew and dreading what we had to do, I remember holding on to the phone and listening to her sob and telling her I loved her over and over. We knew from that moment that the only way to survive was together. It still is, and we are, and we do.
Last Friday at 5 a.m. my parents and I put Megan on a bus to Chicago to get on a plane headed to Indonesia. She'll be there a few months certainly, most likely a year or two, or more. She's in Jakarta now, I've gotten a text and a couple emails, and all is well. I miss her terribly.