LUKE: Look, his problem is obvious, it’s his mother. You never could count on Liz for anything. Our mom died when we were kids, right? It was just my dad, me and Liz. And my dad worked all the time and I worked in the store with my dad, and Liz was off doing God knows what.
LORELAI: Well, I bet losing her mom so early was kind of hard on her.
LUKE: It was hard on all of us, but we did our part. And then the minute she graduates high school, she is outta here. Didn’t matter that my dad was sick, didn’t matter that the store was failing, she just took off. Married the hot dog king, had a kid, he left, now here we are.
Luke gives Lorelai a potted history of his sister Liz. After the death of their mother while they were young, Luke fell into the role of the “good child” who supported his father and worked alongside him in the hardware store when he wasn’t at school. Liz was the “bad child”who ran around town and did her own thing.
As soon as she finished school, she left town (and went to California?) despite her father being ill and the family business going downhill as a result. Luke now makes it sound as if Liz’s husband worked at (or owned?) the Wienerschnitzel restaurant, not merely another customer. In fact, he had a similar job to the one Luke now has!
Lorelai is immediately sympathetic to Liz, understanding the terrible loss of her mother at a young age, and having personal knowledge of being a wayward teenage girl, family black sheep, and young mother herself.
It possibly explains one of the reasons Luke is drawn to Lorelai. She was a rebellious teen like his sister and even had her child the same year as Liz, and yet while he can only see Liz as a screw-up and a flake, Lorelai is energetic, hard-working, ambitious, and a pillar of their community. Of course, Lorelai wasn’t orphaned in her teens, and her family didn’t go broke, so it’s hardly a fair comparison.
In fact, despite Luke’s disparaging summation of his sister’s character, her life story doesn’t sound particularly dire or even that unusual. She got out of a probably stifling small town to escape a miserable family situation, travelled across the country, met a small business owner (?) or at least someone in employment, got married and had a child. Although she married young, the marriage lasted fifteen years or more, leaving her as a single mother to a teenage boy who seemingly inherited her own rebellious streak.
Luke’s relationship with his sister opens up a number of questions. Does he see Lorelai as the girl who turned her life around with the support of Stars Hollow, the way he wishes Liz had? Does he sometimes cast Lorelai in the role of a ditzy younger sister? Does he give Lorelai and Rory the help and friendship he wishes he could have bestowed on Liz and her son?
And if he had directed his love and care towards his sister and nephew instead, would they be in the mess they are now? Because Lorelai has lived in Stars Hollow for more than ten years, and she didn’t even know Luke had a sibling.
(By the way, Liz is another name from General Hospital – Luke and Laura’s son Lucky married a girl named Liz, and they became a younger generation “supercouple”).