Sibling relationships rarely change.
I think that when siblings get together, they fall into their old grooves, whether good or bad.
My family, of course, had a shake up when my oldest sister died at 18. I often wonder what our family dynamics might have been like if she were still alive. Would I be as close with my mother or would she be the one to fill that spot?
My younger brother and I are fairly close. He went to the same college that I did and lived just down the hall from me when I was a senior and he was a freshman. When I traveled to France and again to graduate school, we sent each other long letters, confessing all the joy and problems in our lives.
My older brother, well, that's another story. My mom would say that we were too much alike and that's why we didn't get along. Maybe she saw a different brother than I did. As he hit his teen years, he would yell out the window to insult fat girls. Why would anyone do that? Insecurity?
And he was the one who gave me my ultimate embarrassing moment. Yes, it still bothers me to this day. I must have been in 6th or 7th grade, a time when my girlfriends were beginning to notice my cute older brother. We often hung out at the baseball field to watch the boys play. During one game, my brother went to get a drink from the drinking fountain between innings. I walked over and said something to him, something innocuous like, "How's the game going?"
Bent over the drinking fountain, he looked up at me, took a mouthful of water and spit it all over me, soaking my t shirt and jeans.
I can still feel tears pricking my eyes as I write this. I know it's ridiculous, but at that age, I was humiliated.
So we've had a bumpy relationship since then.
Underneath, I believe that we love each other.
He lives in Texas now, which is forever away from Ohio, nearly an 18-hour drive. I see him once a year sometimes. Not at all other years.
This year we saw each other in December for my Dad's 80th birthday celebration. We spent several days together, including his 4th wife who I don't know well, but we all managed to be nice toward each other. (Yes, that is throwing shade at him to comment that it's his 4th wife.)
Then this weekend he flew into Dayton to go to our family reunion on my Mom's side of the family. My parents are visiting from Florida.
When I traveled to Dayton, we planned to celebrate Father's Day with my dad before the reunion.
I hugged both of my brothers and my older brother said, "You still here? When are you going to France?"
I told him we'd just gotten back then said, "Oh, you mean when are we moving? Are you going to come visit us?"
"No, I'm not going to visit."
"Oh, you just want me gone," I laughed.
I didn't think about it the rest of the visit, but as I drove home last night, I wondered why he cares if I'm here or in France. Only seeing each other once a year isn't that big of a burden for him to bear.
Maybe I misinterpreted his words.
But one of my cousins asked him if he was going to visit me in France and he laughed and said "No." He's a Republican and has disdain for most "socialist" countries.
I guess I'm writing about it because I can feel those same middle-school tears pricking at my eyes. Why does it bother me? I'm not intimidated by him any more? He can't hurt me by spraying water on me.
I guess I always want that relationship that we can't have.
We did have a moment of genuine emotion as we walked across a field toward the parking lot after the family reunion. I said that it was nice of him to visit for the family reunion, that I knew it made Mom happy.
He responded that he's scared to death that every time he sees Dad it might be the last time.
I shared my, whatever it's worth, wisdom, that life isn't about the last moment that we're together but the span of all the times we've shared.
Our family hasn't been the Leave It To Beaver kind of family. My parents divorced when I was three and then remarried each other again when I was 10. My brother was old enough to remember the divorce and be angry at my father when they remarried. Since then though, they've built a good relationship, when they see each other, every year or sometimes twice a year.
None of us are ever ready to lose our parents, but I guess we need to do what we can to be at peace, knowing that it will happen eventually.
And the same is true of our siblings. I want to be at peace with our relationship, knowing I do, or have done, what I can to be a loving sister, in spite of our differences.
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