Alix Sugarman: Telling someone for the first time that I have a twin, and people get so excited. They love to hear that. They're like, "Oh my god, like, well what's it like?" And I always kind of have to preface it by being like, "Oh well, you know, it's actually pretty dark.”
This is Death, Sex & Money.
The show from WNYC about the things we think about a lot...
…and need to talk about more.
I’m Anna Sale.
Alix: I was born 3 months premature and I have a twin sister who’s a quadriplegic.
This is Alix Sugarman. She sent us a voice memo about her sister, Katie, who has cerebral palsy and has been paralyzed since birth.
Alix: She’s wheelchair bound. She can’t feed herself. She is pretty highly intellectually functioning, and every time I reach sort of another milestone in my adult life it feels like something that she can’t ever get to.
Alix was responding to our call for stories about siblings and how your relationships have changed as you’ve grown up. I asked Alix to come to our studio, to talk with me more about her relationship with her twin sister.
Alix: God, it’s been really hard.
Alix and her twin, Katie, grew up outside New York City. Their lives were very different from the start.
Alix: All throughout growing up, it was very clear that we had like separate lives. Like we never -- we didn’t like go to the same class with the same teacher and the same outfits and, you know, do like little kid twin things.
Even though Alix was born premature, like her sister, she doesn’t have any physical disabilities.
Alix: Guilt isn't -- it's the thing everyone wants to think the situation immediately produces. "Oh, well you get to not be in a wheelchair and you have to look at someone that is, like don’t you feel guilty?" And it’s actually really frustrating because, of course I feel guilty, but guess what, I feel pretty angry too.
That anger has led to resentment on both sides of their relationship. When something good happens in Alix’s life -- like when she recently fell in love -- it can be hard to talk about with her sister. She says, more often, it seems like her twin likes to hear about what’s not going well in her life.
Alix: Like I just got my wisdom teeth out, and my sort of perception of her in that moment was that she was like, "Oh yeah? It sucks? Like all four of them?”
If you have a sibling, you know the way these jabs can land. There’s a sting to them that’s particular. Because they know you so well. They’ve known you so long. These are people you can feel more connected to and more exasperated by than anyone else.
This is what I heard in the more than 200 stories you sent in about your siblings.
We had, what I considered the best relationship a sibling could have.
Fast forward to the present, my siblings and I are barely speaking.
For whatever reason, I find it harder and harder to get them to say anything towards me.
He would tell a stranger in a checkout more than he would tell me.
And I'm not really sure...
...why he suddenly looked at me with such disdain.
It's a tough thing because man, we were so close.
I know Dad wants us to have a relationship...
But, you know, she's turned her back on us.
That's where we are now. We're severed. Well almost, almost.
Almost severed. That’s the thing about siblings. They are a part of your makeup. You shared your childhoods and have a family history that binds you, even if that family history has driven you apart.
Hannah: My dad and my mom separated when I was about 10. And we had -- I had a sporadic relationship with my father for about seven or eight years after that, but I haven't spoken to him at all in three years today, actually.
AS: What’s your relationship like with your brother?
Hannah: Hard. We were really close as children and then, when my dad left, Jake blamed my mom and I, I think because we were there and my dad wasn't. So we -- he kind of treated us like we pushed him away. So when I left for college my brother and I didn't talk for a very long time.
This is Hannah. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. And since she graduated college, she’s been living with her mom and brother after they lost their home in the foreclosure crisis.
About a year after they all moved in together, her brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma. He was 20 years old. Hannah was 23.
Hannah: He makes jokes about it. That's one of his coping mechanisms. But for about the first year he didn't really want to talk about it. I think it was part denial, part anger.
Her brother Jake's been in and out of treatment for two years now. And then, last winter, he developed a massive infection that landed him in the emergency room.
Hannah: They looked at my mom and I and they said, "We need to know if he has a DNR." And we said, "He's never talked about it. He kind of won't.” And they were like, "Well then you need to make the decision because when he codes we need to know what to do." And I just stood there and went, "What do you mean when?” Not if. When. And -- so we're standing in the ER looking at how sick my brother is and they want us to make these decisions about his life that he's never talked to us about. And they kind of said, "We don't think he's gonna make it to the ICU." And then we get to the ICU and everybody has this look on their face that you're like, "They don't think he's gonna make it through the night." And then he made it through the night. And then they're like, "Well, we don't -- we don't know. We -- it doesn't look good." And he just kept getting better. So even though he looks fine now, I look at him and I still see how sick he was in the ER and how scared and certain everyone was that he was gonna die there.
AS: Have you talked to him about things like a Do Not Resuscitate Order since?
Hannah: Yes. So he -- after he made it out of the ICU, he was transferred to a normal hospital room where they were like, "You need to have a power -- a medical power of attorney.” They were like, "Okay, so you wanna name your mom as your medical power of attorney?" And they wrote it down on the paper. And then he went, "No...I need to -- I wanna name my sister. And my mom be the second.”
AS: Oh Hannah...
Hannah: And...yeah. And we asked him why and he goes, "I don't think Mom could make that decision. I don't want to put that on her.” So it's on me.
AS: Hannah, you're his big sister.
AS: He has such faith in you.
Hannah: I never expected that.
Hannah emailed us an update last week. She told us that her brother has started a new treatment plan and is responding well. “We are a bit in shock that he is so well recovered," she said. "I think this is what they refer to as 'cautiously optimistic.'"
Dane: It took me by surprise and it was something I didn't ask for, but I just kind of fit into the role.
When our relationships with our siblings suddenly change it can really throw us for a loop. Dane sent in this voice memo from Ohio about his big brother.
Dane: He’d get on the roof and he would shoot a paintball gun at me as I got off the school bus. And it kind of stayed that way until I hit sophomore year in high school, gained weight, and could kind of wrestle and defend myself. But when we got older, I went off to college, he started going in and out of jail and it just became kind of a reversal in the sense that I was a brother or an older person that he would look up to or he would go to for help. So it always felt strange to start helping someone when I grew up not liking them, not wanting to be around them.
But a lot of the time with your brothers and sisters you have clear roles that are easy to get boxed into. Hannah Richardson is the youngest of five. Her next oldest sibling is seven years older.
Hannah Richardson: Growing up, I would always get the most Christmas presents, and still to this day, being a 25-year-old adult, my parents still will do that for me.
Hannah’s older sisters and brother are close in age, which has also made her feel very separate from the rest of them.
Hannah Richardson: I was really close with all of them kind of individually, but I think the four of them together are closer than I am with the group, if that makes sense. So...
AS: Yeah. I totally -- I totally understand that. Yeah.
Hannah Richardson: Yeah. I have really strong individual connections with everybody, but I still find it hard sometimes to really mesh with the whole group.
I get this because I come from a family of five daughters.
Sale sisters: I can hear Catherine and I can hear Anna.
We range in age from 31 to 46.
Sale sisters: Ellen! Hi El! Hi sister!
And we don’t often all talk on the phone together.
Sale sisters: Hello. We are in all four time zones. That's incredible!
AS: I know.
Sale sisters: [Echoes] That's incredible. I know.
We usually communicate by group text and email.
Sale sisters: I called Mary on Monday and she actually answered the phone. I almost drove the car off the road…Oh my god! [Laughs]
Mary's the one who gets the extra Christmas gifts in my family. She's the youngest. I'm in the middle: the fourth of five.
AS: Do you think that I'm like a middle child?
Sale sisters: Yes totally. Yes. Definitely. In every way.
AS: Wait, why?
Sale sisters: Well I think you've already sort of been like self-sufficient. You sort of just figured it out. You know what I mean?
Ellen: I think you like learn from the mistakes of your elders.
Sale sisters: Yes. Definitely.
Ellen: What I -- and you know this. Like there's like things about middle children. They like seek attention cause people forget about them.
Sale sisters: What do you do? Say that again, Ellen.
Ellen: I think you seek attention cause people forget about middle children.
Sale sisters: Oh yeah. [Laughs]
Siblings. Brutally honest.
When there’s just two kids in your family, all those sibling dynamics can be more concentrated.
Paul: As most younger siblings, I probably -- I wanted to be her and stole all of her music.
This is Paul, and that’s not his real name. He wrote in from Philadelphia about his older sister.
Paul: I think I just listened to whatever she was listening to. So at the time it was probably REM, Pearl Jam...
AS: So she made you cool?
Paul: She made me cool. Absolutely. Yeah. No, I definitely -- I really looked up to her when I was younger.
Paul and his big sister were fairly close as kids and got even closer through college. But later in her 20s, his sister started pulling away from the family.
Paul: She was becoming very, uh, paranoid. She thought people were monitoring her or doing different things around her life or affecting her negatively and uh...we think it's bipolar disorder. But she's never had it fully checked out so it's hard for us to say. You know, we kind of changed roles where I became kind of the older sibling because I was graduated or I had graduated and I had a job and, you know, definitely from the surface it definitely looked like I had my life together but -- so she -- yeah, those roles kind of switched, and actually, I'd say in the last couple of years that's been the narrative. So that's one of the reasons why it's been really hard for us to connect is because even when she's in a good mood it's me off having a successful life. And when she feels in an aggressive mood she'll...say very hurtful things about, you know, isn't it nice that I've made my parents so proud? And...yeah...I've gone off and I'm doing such wonderful things.
AS: How much are you in touch now?
Paul: Not at all. So right now, she's, we believe, somewhere in LA.
AS: You're not sure where.
Paul: No. And we're not sure whether she's, you know, has a roof over her head. We're not sure whether she's working anywhere...
AS: Do you know if she's safe?
Paul: No. My parents, I think, struggle with it a lot more than I do. I know they struggle with it a lot more than I do. I think because my sister and my relationship kind of slowly dissolved over time, it's a little bit easier for me to understand. And because my parents were dealing with it on a firsthand basis, on a day-to-day basis, and saw her at her worst it's a lot harder for them. And obviously there's a very different set of obligations or feelings of obligations as a parent.
AS: It sounds like you've been more able to be angry with your sister than your parents.
Paul: [Laughs] Yeah. I think so. I think -- and I think part of that is being angry for them...because, you know, as far as I'm concerned if you look at the vast majority of people in the world we hit the lottery. You know, so -- we had parents who loved us and who were there for us and now they have -- you know... They're retired and they should be off enjoying themselves, and instead they're struggling and worrying every night.
AS: You also said, in your voice memo, you said, right now, not being in touch, that it's like she's dead, and in some ways it would be easier if she was dead.
Paul: Yeah, it was very hard for me to write, but um...this is gonna sound so terrible. Death is so finite, I guess. It's known. But, you know -- but I feel like, you know, death you can deal with, you can't deal with the unknown. And you can live in hope, but living in hope is tiring.
After we spoke, Paul emailed to say our conversation had been on his mind constantly. He wrote, "The comment that's been bugging me the most is what I said regarding death. I don't know how that comment was received, but I love my sister deeply and there is nothing I would love more than to have her happy, healthy, and safe.”
Person 1: Hi Anna
Person 2: Hi Anna
Person 1: So my oldest brother is probably my most complicated relationship.
Person 2: I always thought I had a really good relationship with my sister.
Person 1: And as the oldest he really kind of wanted nothing to do with the rest of us. He was honestly kind of a dick.
Person 2: I went off to college and basically left her dealing with a lot.
Person 1: When I got to college, he realized that I was gay as well and reached out to me.
Person 2: There was later points in life when I needed her and she spent a lot of time judging me.
Person 1: His big dream was like, "Take me out drinking and take me to gay bars." And we did that and, you know, got super drunk and sang show tunes...
Person 2: We just had a really bad fight tonight and were just at the part of trying to make up.
Person 1: And so now when we get together, you know, we drink and we all imitate Elaine Stritch from Company and it's a really good time.
Person 2: And then there are days when you look at this person and go, "Man, if you weren't related to me, would I be choosing you as my friend?"
Coming up, more of your stories about brothers and sisters, including when taking care of yourself, means letting go of them.
Megan: It’s not the ideal solution...But it worked. It protected me.
This is a show about siblings, but we also heard from many of you who don’t have any. That's becoming more common. The number of American families with one child has ticked up by more than 10% since 1976. Today, about a quarter of families - with children have only one.
And we heard in 2015 about the feelings that only children have about their lack of siblings are complicated.
Being an only child is 100% different than having siblings.
I did not struggle with being an only child growing up.
I never appreciated the pity that I received as an only child.
...That a lot of my friends who had brothers or sisters like hated their guts.
People talk a lot about only children being very like stuck up...
I really just enjoy being solitary.
Uh, I didn't learn about sharing.
I really like to be the center of attention.
My issue these days with being an only child is that I have to be perfect.
I dream of calling a sibling after a fight....
To be like, "Uh, this is what Mom's doing." You know like...
I have no one to look to and say, "Did that really fucking happen?"
I don't have like a collective memory of my parents. It's just me.
...Like knowing that, one day, my parents are gonna get very old and die. Um. And then there won't be anyone else. And that's really hard.
Whether or not you have siblings….you may know the experience of evaluating whether a long-standing relationship is no longer healthy for you, which is something listening back to some of the tougher stories in this episode made us think about.
We want to hear from you if estrangement is something you know about…For you, was the decision to become estranged a long slow process, or like a switch?
I’d particularly love to hear from more of you if you are currently deciding whether or not to cut a person or a community out of your life… What factors are you weighing? What keeps you from entirely letting go when the relationship has become harmful. We’re interested in the ambivalences here.
And we know estrangement doesn’t only apply to family: it can apply to friends who have let you down, or even communities, like religious groups or online spaces that you’ve decided you need to leave behind.
if you are currently deciding to estrange yourself from a relationship with a person or a community and want to tell us more about it write us an email or send us a voice memo to email@example.com.
On next week’s episode, you’ll get to know a listener named Fey who is dealing with a different sort of dilemma: when, and how to disclose she has a disability. She has a degenerative eye disease, and is slowly becoming blind, and is struggling to figure out how how to talk about her condition to her family, dates, and anyone else she happens to encounter…
FEY: A lot of times I don't want to be like, well, I'm the visually impaired because nine times out of 10 opens up a can of worms, like I've encountered that while I'm in the wax session I'm being asked, how long have you had an issue with that? Or you mean, I see you're wearing glasses.
AS: like a, like a, a waxing, like a bikini. Oh Lord, you don't want to talk ever during that. And you certainly don't want to talk about that.
This is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC. I’m Anna Sale.
AS: This is Anna, can you hear me?
Jessica and Betsy: Oh, oh hi!
AS: You totally sound like sisters.
Jessica and Betsy: I know. Right? I was like, “They're gonna have a hard time determining who's who.”
Sisters Jessica and Betsy Herczeg-Konecny live in two different time zones: Jessica lives outside Detroit. Betsy lives in San Francisco. And when Jessica wrote us about her sister, she described her as her “soulmate.” But it wasn’t always that way. I talked to them both on their cell phones, which is how they talk to each other, every single day.
Jessica: I don’t really think we got really close until later when we would call each other on our commutes. We were just both in the car, wasn't it, Betsy?
Betsy: And neither of us had romantic partners at the time. And I don't even know where the...if you came up with this, Jess, but we were talking about last calls of the day...
Jessica: Oh yeah.
Betsy: Because most people who are in romantic partnerships have someone to talk to at the end of the day where they just kind of download everything.
Betsy: And we just have never really had that. I think -- so we just started, as kind of a joke, like, "Oh yeah this is gonna be our last call of the day so that somebody knows what my day was like." Like I can talk to somebody.
Betsy and Jessica are both single and in their 30s, and they’re already talking about living together in their old age. “On the Golden Girls-Grey Gardens spectrum," Jessica said, “We're hoping for Dorothy and Rose, of course.” They also told me they're not too worried about losing their bond if one of them pairs off before then.
Betsy: She would make an amazing mother. I want to be a good aunt. So I don’t think we really fear it.
But it can be harder to stay close, when your siblings partner up, have kids of their own or when you decide to build a life that looks very different than the way you grew up with your siblings.
A listener named Mike wrote in about how getting sober changed his relationships with his siblings. He grew up in a big family--one of six kids in Bismark, North Dakota. He was especially close with one brother well into adulthood.
Mike: He and I really were good drinking buddies. Really terrific drinking buddies. And we would compare...I remember we used to be on the phone with each other, telling each other how we hid our booze from our wives, you know, where we would put it.
Then, when he was 50, Mike stopped drinking. His relationship to all his siblings became more distant. He noticed when they all gathered back in North Dakota for his father’s funeral.
Mike: I would watch them later in the afternoon when everyone started having their -- a beer or wine. I would kind of -- I remember going into the other room and thinking, "Wow. Okay I used to be part of that." You know what it is, it's kind of like being -- everyone has their place in family...
Mike:...When they were younger. And they were all kind of fitting in. And I don't think I wanted to fit in during that.
That was six years ago and he said that distance has stayed. And when we talked, Mike wasn’t sure how much it’s him that pulled away or if his siblings did. But he knows he wishes he still had those phone conversations with his brother.
Mike: I don’t talk to him like I did. Um. There's a wall there. I miss him.
Getting sober changed the way Mike fit into his family. For Consuello, it was getting a degree. She wrote in from Texas. Her mother had her when she was a teenager, and then 10 years later, had three more kids. Consuello took care of her siblings a lot while she was growing up.
Consuello: I remember...there are times when it was the -- a dance and I wanted to go, and my mom wasn't home...and...and sitting by the window when it was dark outside, and hoping that the next headlight that comes home will be the headlight that says I can go to the dance.
AS: How old were you when you left the house?
Consuello: I was 18 years old. And I counted down the days. And it was hard. I remember being at the bus stop and saying goodbye to my little brothers and my sister. But I had to say goodbye because I wanted a life. I wanted a life that was bigger than, you know, than being a caretaker.
Consuello is 41 now and the only one of her siblings to graduate college. She’s working on her second master’s degree. She served in the Air Force and the Reserves, and is a single parent to twin 16-year-olds.
Consuello: My children will tell you any day of the week, "My mom makes us wake up at 10 am because she says homelessness and joblessness runs in our family."
For fifteen years, while she was working and going to school she only visited her family in Texas a handful of times, maybe five.
Consuello: And that was my way of clamoring for a life that was different than what my brothers and my sister and I were exposed to.
AS: When you're with your family now, do you feel like there's a mix of them being proud of you and also feeling rejected by you?
Consuello: Yes. And...I'm not quite sure that's unwarranted. It's not that I want to intentionally reject my family. I think I just reject the pain that sometimes comes with being a part of this family. And the byproduct of that is my family feeling rejected.
AS: Does anyone ask you for money?
Consuello: Not now. No. And part of the reason is that...at some point I...I became really good with "no."
AS: When did you learn how to do that?
Consuello: It was an unfolding. It was giving money that I didn't really have to give. It was realizing that I as a single parent of two...that is where my priority lies. And I don't have to explain that to anyone.
But those hard boundaries are beginning to relax. Consuello and her siblings have started spending holidays together again, and when we talked she’d just heard from her little brother who was homeless after a stint in jail.
Consuello: I have to return a phone call to my brother and make a decision of whether or not I'm gonna extend my home to him for him to live in. So...
AS: Which way are you leaning?
Consuello: I'm still leaning. I feel like he really has nowhere to go and that this is one of those times where no's not the appropriate answer. I think love has to win this time.
Repairing a relationship with a sibling isn’t always the right thing to do. This is Megan--that’s not her real name--who talked with me about her older brother.
Megan: My brother was always mean. He was not a nice brother, um, in a lot of different ways. He was physically abusive, and verbally abusive, and he would just try to torture me. There was one day after school when I was stuck there in the apartment with him and I was trying to defend myself against him with a broom, and he took the broom out of my hands and broke it in half and laughed hysterically at me. And that's when I just decided...something clicked in my head and I just decided he does not exist. He's not even there. And I proceeded to behave that way for the next 30 years [Laughs]
AS: You laugh when you said 30 years...but so -- you're an eleven-year-old girl. How old is he?
Megan: He would have been 16.
AS: Were you afraid of him?
Megan: I was. At that point I was because he was a big guy. And when I was trying to defend myself and it was so ridiculous that he was laughing at me, I just -- I don't think anytime in my life I've ever met -- felt more powerless than that. And the only thing I could do was this solution that my little kid brain came up with: that, oh, you're not there. And it worked. It worked.
AS: How did it work?
Megan: When he would try to irritate me and get no response he gave up.
AS: So when you -- so you're living in the same household...
AS: Like would you have family dinners? Like be at a table together?
Megan: Sometimes. And I would not speak to him. And nobody said anything.
AS: How long did your brother try to get your attention?
Megan: Oh I think he gave up pretty quickly and was basically like, you know, "Screw you. You don't exist either." Although I do remember that year, when I was eleven, um... There was a cat. There was a stray cat that I used to feed leftovers out of the refrigerator. My mother would never let me have a cat. And this was my favorite thing in the world, this little cat that would come by. And my brother told me that he killed it. And I think that was his last effort to try and really irritate me. And the cat never came back. So I have no way of knowing if that's true. Um. But that kind of cemented my decision that he just wasn't there.
AS: Have there been moments in your adult life when you've thought about communicating with him?
Megan: I don't want to. I mean I do see him...I would say like during the holidays every other year or so he makes it to a family gathering. And uh, my mother will say, "Look your sister's here." And he'll grunt. And um, I'll say, "Hi." And that's absolutely it. And the difficult thing about the whole situation now is...I don't know how long...how much time he has left on this earth because of the way he lived is not a healthy lifestyle. And...I don't think he's a good person. I don't want to know him. I don't want to talk to him. But, I would like him to feel a little bit off the hook for whatever he's done in his life, not just to me. And I don't know what else he's done in life. I know he's done illegal things. I know he's been abusive to other people. He may have molested other kids. I don't know.
AS: Was he ever sexually abusive towards you?
Megan: Yes. When I was younger...I think around 7, 8. For a short period of time, yeah.
AS: And when did you start talking out loud about what had happened with your brother?
Megan: Well I mean it's...only in intimate relationships if I ever talk about it. And a few years ago, I had a few years of therapy and talked about it. But, this is actually very strange talking to someone I don't know about it. And it actually feels really scary. But, you know, I once heard the phrase, "We're only as sick as our secrets." And that resonated so much with me. It makes me wanna just tell all the secrets I've ever [unintelligible] because my family was so secretive. Everything was a secret. And um, there's a part of me that kind of wants to let him know that I...I don't hold anything against him. I just would like him to know that he's -- I think of him as a human being. I don't think of him as a monster. And I think some of his life choices reflect an eternal sense of being a monster. But I wish there were a way to communicate that.
AS: To communicate that without having a relationship.
M: Yeah. Uh. I just would like him to know that he's -- I, in a way, I forgive him.
Even when you cut off all ties with your siblings there’s still something lingering that bonds you together. Like no other relationship in our lives.
Ellen Sale: Your siblings have so much like sensory detail about who you actually are that they know just from having lived with you or like known you your life that like...You guys know exactly what like, you know, it smelled like at Grandma’s house. Like you guys know what it sounds like when Dad talks to all of us. Like you know...like these visceral senses that you can never really narrate to your partner or to your friends in the same way.
And in adulthood, it can be so hard to update these relationships that were forged so long ago. Because you were children together -- so it can be hard to act like adults together.
But some things did shift while we were in the course of making this episode.
Consuello sent us an update about her younger brother, the one who spent some time in jail. He has since moved all his stuff into her guest room. He’s staying with another sister now, but Consuello wrote, “He knows he will always have a place to stay.”
And Mike wrote in to report that after our conversation about sobriety and his brothers, he’d reached out to his brother, the former drinking buddy. He wrote, “We had a great talk yesterday...one of the best in years. I think because of the interview I realized just how isolated we all had become. And that was not okay with me.”
But there are some things that can’t be changed.
After I interviewed Alix Sugarman, I kept wondering about Katie, her twin sister with cerebral palsy.
Alix: Okay, we have Anna on the line.
AS: Hi Katie.
Alix connected us by Skype, the way they keep in touch. They talk about once or twice a week though Katie says, it’s never really easy.
Katie: We’ve never really been close. I think we both have had resentment, in regard to my disability. But, as we've gotten older it's gotten easier to deal with.
AS: Why do you think it’s gotten easier?
Katie: Because I've realized it's not her fault that I'm in a wheelchair. But, yet, it's still hard to look at what my life could have been like if I could walk.
Katie: I want her to be happy but there’s also a component of -- how could you, because I can't, so why should you be happy and like throwing it in my face? But I know she doesn’t mean to. As of late I've been trying to, um, figure out other ways to deal with the situation.
AS: Has that been helpful?
Katie: Um. Sort of.
AS: Sort of. Do you two talk about this a lot?
Katie: Um, not really because it’s a really hard topic for both of us to talk about so...
Alix: Like how often would you say that we talk about it, Katie?
Katie: Whenever we're angry at each other?
AS and Alix: [Laughs]
Katie: You know?
Alix: That's a good one. Sure. I mean I would say -- wouldn't you say we kind of get to the heart of things probably every month or so?
AS: Is there anything that you feel really um -- feel like you’ve learned from your sister, Katie?
Katie: To try to like be more open. But, do I do the things I’ve learned from her? Not necessarily.
AS and Alix: [Laughs]
Alix: I appreciate that, Kato.
Alix Sugarman and her twin sister, Katie Sugarman.
That’s Alix Sugarman and her twin sister, Katie Sugarman.
We first recorded this episode back in 2015… and since then we’ve stayed in touch with many of the people in this episode. Including Alix… who let us know just a few weeks after my conversation with her and her sister Katie… that Katie had died unexpectedly. In the years since her death, Alix and her family have grieved—and have also had reasons to come together and celebrate. Alix got married, and has since given birth to two girls of her own. “Two sisters,” she wrote in her email.
Like Alix, Hannah also got married since our episode came out. Her younger brother, Jake, was able to be at her wedding, but died a year later, in 2016.
Paul says he hasn’t heard much from his sister in the last seven years, and as far as he knows she is still experiencing homelessness. It weighs heavily on him and his aging parents. “As my parents get older and their health and wellness deteriorate, it's been a challenge to have everything fall back on me,” he wrote.
And during the pandemic Betsy and Jess did a sort of “test run of the Golden Girls lifestyle,” living together in Michigan for most of 2020 and into 2021. They called the experience happy and successful. Since then, Betsy moved to Brooklyn. Jess stayed in Michigan… and they both adopted cats. They told us, “It's still the plan to live together at some point again in the near-ish future; if we meet partners they'll have to be on board.”
And me and my four sisters? We are all doing ok and have each moved through some big, and different life transitions since we recorded this, which we all report back to each other about…giving me a sense perspective that is, truly, among the greatest blessings of my life.
AS: This is the closing so think of yourselves as the grand finale.
Sale sisters: Okay. Woohoo. [Laughs]. We're the show closer. I love it. Yeah.
Sale sisters: Death, Sex & Money is a production of WNYC.
The team includes Katie Bishop and Emily Botein, James Ramsay, Rachel Aronoff, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Dunn. Special thanks to Caitlin Pierce for her help with this episode.
The Reverend John Delore and who?
AS: And Steve Lewis.
Sale sisters: Wait say that again…
The Reverend John Delore and Steve Lewis wrote our theme music.
Anna's on Twitter @anna dot or Anna...sorry.
AS: Are any of you on Twitter?
Sale sisters: No. [Laughs] We should be but…
AS: Mary, you say that with such judgment.
Sale sister: [Laughs] No.
AS: "I was just in surgery two hours ago. I'm not on Twitter."
Sale sister: [Laughs] I'm the doctor, remember?
AS: Yeah I know. Um. Okay, Liz.
Elizabeth: If you like Death, Sex & Money subscribe to us on iTunes.
Sale sisters: That helps other people find us on the iTunes charts.
Sale sisters: I'm Elizabeth Sale. I'm Ellen Sale. I'm Catherine Lucy. I'm Mary Sale, the baby.
I'm Anna Sale and this is Death, Sex & Money from WNYC.
Can you edit in the little, "I'm Anna's older sister?"