Brothers and Sisters

I am very fortunate to have seven siblings.   Having siblings was important when I was a child.  Without siblings, who would tell me that I was stupid to wear lipstick to the beach, or that I threw a baseball like a girl, or that it was my turn to dry the dishes?  Without siblings I would have relied upon the guarded answers from friends when I asked if they thought I was smart enough to go to college, or if my boyfriend was cheating on me, or if my prom gown was too babyish.  Instead, good or bad, I got a straight shot of honesty no ice, no chaser.

There are many ways in which my siblings and I are alike.  It appears that DNA determines more than facial characteristics, so I suppose it should not surprise me that we share many of the same traits.  For instance, we say “anyways” instead of “anyway.”  I don’t know why we do this, but we do.  Anyways, (see?) we love to eat, especially homemade bread, warm and slathered with creamy butter.  We all love music, from rock to folk to jazz to country, and play it often and loudly– especially in the car.   Most of us have a strong sense of altruism, and many of us thrive on the adrenaline surge that comes with speed, danger, or a combination of both. 

For as many ways as we are alike, we are all different.  It is my belief that some of these differences are gender driven.  There are definite differences in the way that sisters and brothers relate.

Sisters nurture. They comfort broken hearts.  They bring solace and anoint you with soothing murmurs, gentle hugs and chocolate.  Sisters will tactfully tell you that your swim suit has crept up over your butt cheek.  They will whisper that you have a whisker protruding from your chin, or there is a stream of toilet paper caught on your heel.  They save their favorite baby clothes for your first-born.  They feed your children, and they offer coffee and tissues when you’ve had a fight with your husband.  They give advice about diaper rash, cooking, and making third pregnancy maternity clothing look new.  They will offer their teenagers as baby sitters and surprise you with black balloons on your fortieth birthday. 

When my heart ached from a broken marriage, it was my sister Martha-Jean who soothed me.  While tears slid down my cheeks and splashed upon the soil, she and I worked side-by-side to plant flowers in her garden.  The fact that the blooms would perish by the end of the summer made it all the sadder, but the knowledge that we could plant yet again gave me hope.

My sister Robin is forever my confidant.  From our bunk beds we pretended we were cowboys, swapped paper dolls and shared pictures of heart throbs cut from teen magazines. When I was expecting my first child and she her second, we entrusted only to each other how much weight we each had gained.  She never told.  Neither did I.

My sister Teri surprises me with unexpected text messages to my cell phone- just to check in and see how I’m doing.   They come at all hours, for no reason, but it always warms my heart because I know she is thinking of me.

Sisters love you even when you are at your worst.  When I was a teenager and my baby sister Missy was a toddler, I was often charged with the responsibility of giving her a bath.  One day I was mad at my mother for some unremembered reason and took it out on poor Missy, roughly washing her hair and scrubbing her little round face with a wash cloth.  Totally consumed in self-pity, I stood her up to lift her out of the tub.  She stood there, naked and shivering in the cold, teeth chattering.  She looked up at me and tenderly stated, “I love you Garrie.” 

I had never before been anyone’s hero.  To this day, whenever I feel weak, or alone, or insecure, I pull that memory out, dust it off, and gaze at it for a while.  It never fails to remind me that no matter how badly I have behaved, I am still loved.

Brothers are different. Where sisters shroud the truth with tact, brothers barely take time to aim- they shoot straight from the hip.  There is no gray in a brother’s opinion.  If you ask, be prepared for a black or white answer.  “Yes, that’s a great idea” or “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. “   There is little in between. 

Sisters leave the door ajar for you to gracefully exit if the situation becomes uncomfortable.  They present you with a couple of options from which to choose, and allow you an opportunity to decline.  They delicately tip toe around subjects that might cause you to be embarrassed or upset. 

Brothers don’t leave you an out.  When the Atlantic Ocean is so cold it turns my feet numb, my brother Scott coaxes me out of my beach chair and shames me into swimming at his side.   He knows the salt water will ease my aching joints and invigorate my sleepy soul. 

My brother Kevin reminds me that my faith must direct my path, even when the road is difficult.  He stands tall, like a lighthouse, and guides my path with gentle nudges.  He draws me in with his infectious laughter, and before I realize what’s happening, pulls me from the place I was to where I need to go.

When my fears of failure threaten to paralyze me, my brother Eric charges ahead, dragging me in his wake before I can find an excuse to stay behind.  He does not cajole.  He does not negotiate.  He yanks me from my solitude and leads me through unknown territory because he knows it is by doing that I will believe I can.

Some people may not have been born to be part of a large family.  I have heard that in large families there is not enough to go around.  For me, it is different.  Each of my siblings has carved a spot in my heart that nobody else can claim.  Each has enriched my life in a way that no one else has.  They keep me balanced.  They remind me of who I am and who I need to be.  They set me straight when I am on the wrong path and they cheer me on when I am on the right one. They challenge me and try my patience.  They celebrate my joys and they share the burdens of my failures.  Despite the years of hand-me-downs, common bicycles, shared toys and dormitory style bedrooms, I would not trade my loud, idiosyncratic, boisterous big family for anything.   I love them passionately and deeply, and yes, there’s enough to go around, because when it comes to siblings, love doesn’t divide. It multiplies.

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1 Comment

  1. Missy

     /  April 29, 2010

    I think this one is my favorite. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over!

    Like

    Reply

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