Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Barbara Walters opens up about the strained relationship with her disabled sister

TV journalist Barbara Walters, 78, has just published her new memoir, Audition, and it tells of her sometimes painful relationship with her developmentally disabled older sister.

According to a NY Times story May 5, "As she is about most of her interview subjects, Ms. Walters is not judgmental with herself, except when it comes to her family. She expresses deep regret over her relationship with her sister, Jacqueline, whose disability at times embarrassed her. 'I loved her, but as I said at times I hated her. That was painful to say.'”

Walters is not of the "reveal everything" generation, even though ironically that's what she's made a career of getting others to do. But I find it a positive sign that she can be so open and honest about her conflicted relationship with her sister.

I have read numerous memoirs of people with disabilities, and sibling relationships tend to be either extremely positive or sometimes so negative they are abusive. I applaud Walters for talking about the issue, because given the closed-off generation in which she grew up and the other conflicts going on in her family (her father's financial problems that sent them from wealthy into a working class existence), I think her forthrightness is important. Non-disabled siblings have their own unique path to follow, being a peripheral part of the experiences of people with disabilties. Thankfully, many non-disabled siblings these days are supportive and loving and take pride in the accomplishments of their disabled brothers and sisters.