The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn

| November 15, 2013 | 2 Comments
From left to right: Caroline, Kate, Elizabeth, Jane, Rose

From left to right: Caroline, Kate, Elizabeth, Jane, Rose

I consider myself the oldest of five. I have two sisters, and we have two girl cousins who live right around the corner from us. My sisters and I grew up with them as much as we did with each other. I’ve taken care of and been a role model to all of them. Each one drives me up a wall in her own way, but I love them just the same.
For all of high school, I was a part time mother. In October, when I was in ninth grade, my mother brought into the world my half-sister, Jane Regina Conroy-Grobman. She wasn’t planned, but now she is five years old. Jane is the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever seen.

Jane used to call me “mommy,” until she understood the concept of a sister. I’m very motherly, and I’ve always known that I want to have children. At age 14, when Jane was an infant, it was a lot harder to take care of her. I would insist on giving up my dream of having kids. “I just can’t do it,” I’d say. But now I know that’s not true. I’m very lucky to have had Jane in my life, not only because she’s wonderful, but also because helping out with her was like a test run for my kids. Now I know that I can do it. And feeling her tiny hand holding mine, her tiny arms wrapped around my neck, her tiny body in my arms, I know that this is what being a mother feels like.

At Jane's fifth birthday party

At Jane’s fifth birthday party

I have a full sister named Rose who is fifteen, still at home and going to high school. Rose is a lot more popular than I was in high school, and we just don’t have the same priorities. They act much more like regular sisters—I’ve seen them fight over the television (which is a fairer fight than you’d think). Rose used to be the most important person in the world to me. Now she shares that spot with Jane, although Rose can take care of herself now. Jane still needs me, and I’ve considered leaving school to be there for her. But then I remember that my stepdad does a fine job with her, and my place is here now. Back home, I was often the only person who could get Jane to fall asleep at night, and I was the only one whom she’d let brush her hair. Now I keep five different photos of Jane next to my bed. I miss her every second of every day. My stepdad tells me she sometimes cries for me at night. I do the same for her, only quieter.

My stepdad and Jane, a few weeks ago at the zoo

My stepdad and Jane, a few weeks ago at the zoo

In one of my favorite movies, Moulin Rouge, they say, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” School is important, yes, but the fact that I’ve considered leaving to help out with Jane shows that it isn’t the most important. I would give up everything in my life to keep the love that I have with Jane. She is the most precious thing in the world, my treasure. Every day I worry about both of my sisters. What if they get hurt and I’m not there to help them? What if there’s a fire in the house? What if someone attacks them? I’m supposed to be there to take care of them, both of them. I know that there are others to do that job, but sometimes I don’t trust anyone but myself to do it. Eventually, she’ll grow up. It’s so hard to imagine, but I know she will. But I thank her sweet young soul every day for teaching me life’s most important lesson.

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Category: featured, Poetry, Prose and Comedy

Kate Conroy

About the Author ()

Kate Conroy comes from a small town in South Jersey where she has two little sisters and a cat named Pavarotti. She is a Leo and an English major, and she will compulsively correct your grammar. She started writing fiction when she was ten, and she has been working on her debut novel for the past three years. Her hobbies include painting, knitting, making tv references, and accidentally taking naps. Follow her on twitter: @K4TE8

Comments (2)

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  1. DS says:

    my experience was the opposite. once i reached college, i paid nearly zero attention to my two younger brothers. years later, when i learned about their high school sports achievements, i realized how selfish i had been. by the time they were entering college, i had moved away and – without the internet or cell phones back then – it was very difficult to keep in touch.

    i sometimes look at where they are now, what they’ve done, haven’t done, are trying to do, can’t do. and i can’t stop wondering if there were things i was supposed to do or could have done to make anything better or easier for them. i can’t go back and change anything for them. all i can do now is attempt to share my experiences with my own kids and hope they do things, some things, differently than i did.

  2. Regina says:

    So well written that it brought tears to my eyes. Kate, because you are such a special and loving young woman I know that only good fortune is in your future. And, for sure, Jane and Rose will always give you unconditional love. xxoo

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