“How did Michael Jackson die?”
That was the question my baby sister, just 11, asked as we watched a tribute to the late King of Pop while on holiday in Jamaica last week.
My other sister, 26, and I glanced at each other. At the same time we responded: “Drug overdose.”
“Of pain killers,” I added, which made it seem a bit better to the young one, at least in my mind.
“Do you know this song?” I asked her as the dancers on stage performed Beat It. She shook her head. Suddenly the 19-year-age difference between the two of us came out in shining form to me.
It wasn’t her only question of the week where I paused before responding. She also asked questions about the Boston bombing suspects on the day the City of Boston was shut down. At least with that conversation, I could keep glancing at her mother before I replied to each query. Until I managed to change the subject to something more tween-friendly.
What struck me about the Michael Jackson questions though was how different my sister’s childhood and history is compared to mine. The closest comparison I could make to a similar question I might have asked as a child (but didn’t) would be inquiring to how Elvis Presley died. (As my fiancé aptly pointed out, I might have asked that question had I watched a tribute show of him.)
I’m sure this is a realization most people have as parents, but my little sister is the closest thing I’ve got.
I’ve always been entranced as I watched her grow, from a baby, to a toddler, to a little girl, and now into a young woman. I still think of her as that premature baby she was, now nearly 12 years ago. I still refer to her as “Baby” before I say her name (which she takes in stride, bless her heart).
Her Michael Jackson question makes me wonder what other questions she may ask. Will she want to know about 9/11? A day she lived through, but since she was three months old, she has no memory of that day or the world that existed before.
I know not all of her questions are mine to answer, even if she asks them of me. I should refer her to her parents for questions I’m uncomfortable answering. But, I feel like a pretty cool older sister when she does ask me.
Her questions also give me a little insight into the generation she lives in and just how different we are beyond the fact that she’s a blonde and I’m a brunette.
Which reminds me: being a 30-year-old big sister to an 11-year-old is pretty cool.
(And yes, this post was published with her mother’s permission.)