Showing posts with label Siblings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Siblings. Show all posts

Friday, November 2, 2018


[I first published this blog post in March of 2015 in honor of my sister's birthday.  At that time I had no idea that just a few years later she would be gone. I am sad to say that my sister died on October 25th (2018) at the age of 79 but in honor of her birthday, I wanted to republish this post to honor her once again.  She was a remarkable woman who is sorely missed]

Think about it. For good or ill, your parents and your older siblings have known you longer than anyone else in the world. 

Whether you had a good experience or a bad experience growing up, your family members were major players in your life. I was fortunate to have a wonderful family. 

Growing up, I didn't appreciate them at the time, of course.  I complained about them when I didn't get my way or "they didn't understand me." But deep down I was proud of them too.  And woe to anyone who said anything bad about anyone in my family.  I could complain about them, but you as hell better not. 

Few of us, though, appreciate what we have when we have it. But looking back and in relation to what I know now, I had a great family.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for the last couple of years, you know that I use birthdays as a springboard to remember. 

And I like to share pictures because they help me to remember.  It's fun going through the albums looking for appropriate photographs.  I always think of my Dad and how much he enjoyed taking our pictures.  He always had the latest camera and when I look at these pictures, I see what a good photographer he was, posing us just so.  Don't think I didn't hate it at the time, but I am so glad I have these photos now.

But I also share these pictures here, because I hope that they will spark something in you, too, to remember happy times with your family and to remind you that in the end we are all the same, we all want to be a part of something, we are all part of something, we are all one.  And that as the cycle of life unwinds, when we come to the end of the tether, we have our memories.

So now I celebrate my sister's birthday.

She was my only sister and my older sister - nine years older.  So can you imagine, there she was the only girl and actually the only child for five years until my brother came along.  But then nine years later, there I was -- another girl, her sister.

Being the oldest has its benefits but also its negatives. 

Like I said, she had our parents all to herself for five years and even when my brother was born, she was the only girl.  Being the oldest allows you a certain amount of authority and I think the first child remains the favorite. 

But in our house, there were some indignities to endure such as having  to share her room with a baby (me).  For as long as my sister lived at home, she had to share her bedroom with me. Think of a 16 year old having to share a bedroom with a seven year old.

I can remember nights when she came home from a date and I was sleeping peacefully and she would switch on the light to get ready for bed and I would howl with indignity.  So on the one hand, she could have been a bit more considerate of the little sleeping angel (me), but I also didn't need to make such a fuss (the devil in me).  A bit of passive aggression in there, wouldn't you say?

She also had to babysit, put up with me hanging around when she brought boyfriends home and listen to me whine about stuff, as little ones often do.

I was a bit of a scamp!

But the best thing about being the oldest, I think, is the prestige and the awe that is felt by the younger ones, especially when the oldest is nine years older. I see my little four year old grandson being followed around by his two year old brother, the two year old wanting to do everything that the four year old is doing.  I was in awe of my sister and very proud of her.

She was popular in school.  Was invited into the exclusive sorority-like club at the high school,

played in the orchestra (she played the violin and the viola)

and since you can't play the string instruments in the band, she was the flag bearer in the marching band. 

She was also an athlete and excelled in tennis.

My Dad started playing with her, but soon she was better than he was and went on to play in tournaments.  There is a story in the family that she went to the local public tennis courts, she was told she couldn't practice because there was a tournament going on.  She went right home that day and told our Dad that she would go back and win that tournament.  And she did.  She went on to a college that specialized in tennis.  She went to the Nationals and became a tennis professional and is in the college's and our home town's halls of fame.

My sister went off to college when I was only 8 and basically I rarely saw her again. Well, you know, she never lived at home again. When she did come home, I remember her regaling me about college and telling me that if you just did what you were supposed to do, you got a C. If you wanted a B or an A, you had to do way more than expected.  Scared me to death.

Because my sister was into sports, I realized I wasn't (and psychologically I probably didn't want to have to compete with her in that area), so I veered off into acting.  But I ended up going to the same college and let's just say that when I took tennis it was embarrassing as hell to be reminded by the coach, who remembered my sister, that I couldn't hit the ball to save my life.

My sister got married right out of college and I was in the wedding party.  I was 12 and demanded a tiara, which I got (I was the baby after all, which also has its perks!).

I remember crying after the wedding when her husband and she left, moving far away. 

I finally left home too.

Long story short, I ended up on one coast, she on another. 

As the years went by, she had children and grandchildren, 

as did I.

and as the vagaries of life took hold, she lived on her own. 

But she visited me,

took care of our mother,

taught tennis as a Master Professional and became a Miata enthusiast.

We traveled together (we shared one of my favorite vacations of all time on a narrow boat in England),

and she battled and survived cancer until she didn't. 

Life has a way of coming between relationships.  They take a backseat to life's demands.

But despite the years, despite the age difference, despite the miles, one thing I always knew for sure.  My sister was just a phone call away and she would always be there for me, because she was my older sister.

I had known her longer than anyone alive.

"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." - Unknown

Take a Little Time to Remember.

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday


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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

As you may have noticed, I have written about my Mother, my Dad, my sister, my daughter, my son and Hubby.  When I made the announcement about taking a break from my regular schedule of Tuesday blog postings, one of my friends expressed regret and told me I still had many stories left in me. One of the topics she mentioned was my brother.  She wondered why I hadn't written about him.

You see, I have a brother too.


But I haven't written about him because I haven't seen or spoken to him since our mother's funeral in 1999 and even then we didn't really speak.  He just said something to whomever was nearby that he hoped he never had to come back to our home town ever again.  My sister hasn't spoken to him either.  And you know what?  We have no idea why that is.  Despite several attempts over the years to reach out and to find out, he has not responded.  So we gave up. 

We know we have a brother out there somewhere who wants nothing to do with us.

I have let it go. I haven't written about my brother because I don't think of him that much.  He doesn't play any kind of role in my life now.  He has never met my daughter, his niece, and only met my son once when my son was four. I asked my son recently if he wanted to meet him again, and he replied, "Why would I want a relationship with someone who doesn't care about his family?"

So like I said, I don't think of him that much.  And when people ask me about my family I sometimes forget to mention I have a brother. But I feel guilty about that...and shame.  Guilt and shame that I am part of an estrangement.  That somehow I am guilty of something that has caused it.  That I could have done something to fix it. 

When I was little, I loved the TV show "Father Knows Best."  I thought our family was just like that family: the wise father, the attractive mother, the older sister called "Princess," Bud, the older brother, and then the youngest girl, "Kitten."  Me.  My mother even called me "Kitten" sometimes.

But for all of my thoughts about my happy childhood and my middle class middle American upbringing that I likened to "Father Knows Best," it wasn't supposed to include the estrangement of my brother.  And yet I have to remind myself that I am estranged from him, which is not usually the happy ending you expect from a happy childhood and a "Father Knows Best" kind of world, complete with dog. 



It's a word that feels very odd to say about my brother, considering the seemingly Norman Rockwell upbringing I and my siblings had - parents who stayed together, church every Sunday, stay-at-home Mom, home-cooked meals, dinner together around a table every night. Estrangement is the kind of thing that happens in families where there is abuse or divorce or some bad thing that happened, right?  But nothing like that happened in our family.  Despite that, though, my sister and I have to accept the fact that we are estranged from our brother, and it is highly likely that we will hear nothing from or about him until we hear he has passed away, if we outlive him.  And I feel some shame about that.

So what happened?  How does estrangement happen? Could I have done something?

When you think about it, it's surprising more family members are not estranged from each other.  Just because we have at least one parent in common, that doesn't mean that we will have anything in common with our siblings, and yet our expectations are high about what a happy family is.  We expect that we are all supposed to love each other and be there for each other no matter what. 

But when you consider that many of us are born at different times in our parents' marriage, sometimes in different generations years apart, that we may be of different genders, that when we become adults we have our own families and might have moved far away, that is a pretty high expectation that we would not only love each other, but actually like each other.  Just as in friendships, the relationships need to be nurtured or they drift away.  That is especially true if siblings move far away, have different life experiences or have lifestyles and beliefs that are very different from each other.

Families are strange institutions with their own hierarchy and roles. 

Birth order plays a role in how close siblings might feel to each other. I was the youngest, my brother was in the middle and my sister was the oldest. My sister was nine when I was born, my brother was 5.  They probably weren't particularly happy to have another sibling to contend with. 

(I don't look particularly happy in this picture either).

Those two were always closer, and I was more of the outsider, the "spoiled brat."  My sister got married and left home when I was 12 and my brother left when I was 14, so as the last kid left at home, I enjoyed some of the perks that my sister and brother didn't. There were always comments about how spoiled I was, especially when I got a canopy bed and my own pink Princess phone.

My brother being the middle child and a boy, though, had its own barriers. I don't think my mother liked boys very much or at least didn't understand them, partly because she had five brothers of her own and was probably tired of all of that testosterone. My sister was very accomplished and was held up to us as the standard.  I was the resident drama queen. He was squished between the two of us girls. Add to that a mother who was not easy to please and resentments will occur.

Likewise, I think the state of your parents' marriage over the years plays a role in how close siblings feel to each other.

My parents were 40 when I was born and by that time I think things were not so good between them.  Though they stayed together for over 60 years, it was apparent to me at the end that they were not particularly happy.  So I believe that the three of us kids had very different experiences with our parents. 

By the time I came along, my parents were probably not only tired of each other, but tired of raising kids. Later in my parents' marriage, when my brother and I were still living at home, my Dad wasn't home that much.  Though he and my brother shared a love of fast cars and guns, my Dad was gone in the evenings. He worked extra jobs to afford his "toys," though I also think some of that was to get away from his wife too. 

Also, when parents pass away, the family unit often falls apart.

In most families, the mother is the person who gets everyone together for holidays and the like, and often when the mother dies, if no one else really cares and steps up to make sure everyone still gets together, the family unit falls apart.  I met a woman recently who was a twin in a family with another set of twins and a sister.  Five children and they all live near each other and yet not only are they not close, they rarely see each other.  She shared with me that when her mother was alive, they would all gather at the family home for Sunday dinner.  Once she died, no one else took on that role and they all drifted apart. 

I can speculate all I want about my brother's estrangement.  I will probably never know the reason.  We can't know what's in the hearts and minds of others, and it's possible that he doesn't even know the reason himself anymore. 

But despite age differences, geography, disparity in lifestyles and beliefs or whatever leads to estrangement, the one thing siblings will always share are memories of each other and the life they shared growing up.

My brother used to love to torment me. 

His bedroom was across the hall from mine and he liked to try to shock me and get a reaction.  One time he called for me to come into his bedroom.  He was sitting at his desk reading a school book and had me come over to look at something in the book.  He asked me, "Do you know what that is?" pointing at a diagram in the book.  I shook my head no.  "That's a mammary gland!" and then he broke into loud laughter.  I'm not sure if I knew what a mammary gland was, but he just thought showing me that was the funniest thing.

He also used to like to tie me up into a straitjacket that he made out of one of his sweatshirts.  Then he would tie me to the end of the bed to see if I could escape.  I think this might have had something to do with a fascination with Houdini, but it was also a source of amusement because I invariably wriggled out.  He would like to show this off in front of his friends as in "See what the little twerp can do?" 

One vivid memory involved hockey in our backyard.  Our Dad would freeze the back yard in the winter so we could skate on it. My brother would let me play when the neighborhood kids came over to skate and he had me play goalie.  One time he told me to put on this special headgear because that's what goalies wore.  So I dutifully let him put it on me but couldn't figure out why all of the teen guys were laughing at me.  My brother had put a jock strap on my head!

So it was that kind of sibling stuff. 

When my brother was a teenager, my mother and he did not get along well and I think some of that affected my later relationship with her because of all of the disrespect I witnessed.  He was so bad, he called her Witch Hazel (a Looney Tunes character) and would come home from school and say, "Hi Haze."  The name probably came from the fact that when she was mad at him she would chase him with a broom.  One time my mother was chasing my brother with the broom and he was headed for the one room with a lock - the bathroom.  Wanting to stay in my brother's good graces, I yelled "Run, Lynn!"  Not a good idea.  My brother made it to the bathroom to lock the door so, frustrated, my mother turned around and whacked me instead! I have since learned to stay out of other people's arguments that included brooms!

But despite all of that, I, of course, loved the attention from my handsome, older brother, even if some of it was negative.

And it wasn't all negative.

We did things together: we went to the beach, we went horseback riding together, he let me sleep with him on Christmas Eve so we could go down and see what Santa brought together, we played ping pong and board games (though with the board games, if I was winning he would often say I was cheating and tip the board over!), and he would also impart his teen version of wisdom to me on what guys liked, how I should dress and what I should act like.

One very strong happy memory is sitting on the steps over at our grandparents' house.  They lived kitty-corner from us and we were over there all of the time helping them out and just visiting.  My brother was a  teenager and I was around ten or 11. We were sitting on their front steps and he was passing on some words of wisdom that I no longer remember, but I was giving him my full attention, and after our "talk," I remember him saying, "You know, kid, you're not so bad after all."

It is so sad when families fall apart and siblings no longer speak, especially when you consider all they shared growing up, and unfortunately, it happens more times than we would think. 

But it seems to me that the way to insure that siblings remain close is nurturing the importance of family to our children from a young age. 

I have some cousins who are all very close and have stayed close despite the fact that both parents have passed away.  Yes, most of them still live in or near the town where they were raised and they are all relatively close in age, which helps.  But we already know that living nearby or being close in age does not automatically create closeness.  No, I believe that the main factor for their closeness was their mother, who was a fun person to be around, and who, I think, probably nurtured the idea that the siblings should be close and look out for each other, which they are and which they do. 

But if that doesn't happen, no matter how close in age we might be or where we live, our interests and personalities could be very different.  And if we don't get along or have bad memories, then how likely are we to spend time with our siblings?  Just because we are related doesn't mean we like each other.  Relationships with our family members are really no different from our friendships.  Just as it is with friendships, it you don't work at them and nurture them, they fall away. 

However, if the parents consistently emphasize the love in the family, the importance of being there for your family and what each has in common rather than the differences, then I think siblings will remain close throughout life.

When I do think of my brother, I feel sad about the fact that we are estranged, and I even feel ashamed that our family fell victim to estrangement.  I know my parents would be very sad if they knew, but when I really think about it, it's not surprising considering the different paths we have taken and the fact that our parents have been dead for so many years.

I don't think there is anything I could have done.  He chose his path.  He chose to disconnect. 

I may never know why my brother cut himself off from his family.   At this point, the reason for the estrangement has probably been blown away by the winds of time. But my memories remain.  Memories of a time when we were not estranged.

I write this to close the gap in the family circle and include my brother in my blogging reminiscences. 

My parents would have liked that.  I also write this for all of you out there who may be estranged from a family member too. Perhaps it's not too late for you to make contact again.  If so, then do it.  But if not, there is nothing to be gained by feeling ashamed or guilty.  Unless you know in your heart you had something to do with the estrangement, then it's not your fault.  Even with members of our own family, sometimes we just don't know them, what drives them, how they viewed the life you once shared.

We may be estranged from our family member(s), but that does not negate the happy memories and where we once were: in a shared life. 

I write this to honor those memories, and in turn, I honor my parents.

Now when I think of my brother, I choose to remember him and me sitting on those steps at my grandparent's house and his telling me I wasn't "so bad after all."

I wonder what memories he has of me.

Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday

for my review of

"The Magnificent Seven"
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 
 I Die Project."

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