Monday, February 17, 2014

The (occasionally annoying) inherent value of siblings

I can always count on my brother to keep me honest.

For real.

The irony comes in where he pretends he doesn't read what I write, but then asks about something I wrote.

He is always, always, always the first one to call me out when I do something stupid, when I say something I shouldn't, when I write something that contradicts something I wrote before.

He is the king of leaving and then deleting comments on my Facebook page. I wonder sometimes if he even means for me to see them, he does it so fast. Usually I do see them, and they usually are right on about some aspect of something I overlooked or glossed over or neglected to talk about.

I should tell you this. We couldn't be further apart in how we see the world if we tried, him and I. We rarely agree on much, but we learned a long time ago how to talk about anything and not get stabby. We respect each other's perspectives. We understand that we see the world a different way. We accept it all.

That part, the acceptance piece, is huge.

I don't think it happened, if I am being honest, entirely, until our father was sick.

Incidentally, if you read here often, you know that I usually write about my father's illness and death as though it occurred in some bizarre only child vacuum. There's a reason, and the reason is that my brother hates it when I write about him, so I usually try not to.

Yet, I'm doing it today anyway.

I'm doing it now because there is this piece of who we are that is cool and weird and seems way too grown up and mature.

It's the acceptance part.

It goes a bit like this, and I've tried to explain it to people, but I sense that it might be something you have to live to understand. Anyhow...when our father was ill, I was here, a thousand miles away and my brother was there. In the same town. In the same place. At their house almost every single day.

We necessarily had a different experience with it all as a result. For a while, we were frustrated with each other. It's easier to cast blame on someone else for whatever you think their shortcomings are when they aren't physically in the same space you are. It's easier to believe whatever stories you've been told when you aren't privy to living it first hand. It's easier to get angry about what the other person is or isn't doing when they are too far away to really know.

Having sick parents is stressful. Having dying parents is stressful. Having parents with mental health issues is stressful. Having parents who refuse to take care of themselves is stressful.

Having to deal with all that while living your life, dealing with your spouse and children magnifies everything.

Being stuck in the generational sandwich can suck it.

At some point though, though, we had this moment. It probably happened when our father was in the ICU the first time about a year before his death. When my brother and I were in the same physical space long enough to see that the other one of us was doing the best we could with the information we had, the frustration disappeared.

We realized that neither of us had any idea what the other one was dealing with. We realized that we had to honor the role of the other one, that we had to talk to each other more and rely on what anyone else told us less. We understood that we each had different gifts and abilities and patience levels. We knew then that we could help both of our parents better if we were a team.

From that point on, things were just different for us. Better.

No more bickering. No more animosity. No more resentment.

Isn't that the kind of relationship that siblings should have, eventually anyway? They are, after all, the only people in the entire universe who came from the same place we did. They are the only people who could ever possibly understand the crazy things we were subjected to as kids, why we are the way we are.

They are the best able to understand us.

They are the most equipped to tell us when we're derailing our lives.

They are the usually first ones in line to tell us we're wrong.

And that's all okay, or at least it can be if we go about it the right way.

He called me on something this week, and he was right. He was absolutely right.

In the post I wrote on the anniversary of our father's death, I gave mention to feeling manipulated in the past by my mother and her incessant need for everything to be worse for her. She really did spend a lot of time minimizing our grief, and I can tell you that it gets old in a hurry.

He sent me a message the following morning, after clearly not reading the post (wink, wink), saying that if I truly believe, as I do, that she suffered from intractable mental health problems, then I can't blame her for being the way she was.

And he was right.

I can't blame her. I don't blame her, though it may have seemed that I was doing just that to a casual reader. I don't blame her. I don't want it to seem like I did or do.

Death is so weird that way. I feel like I have to make everything about them in the past tense now, and that just seems so wrong. Anyway...

As I told him when he pointed out my flawed reasoning, or at least the way I had presented it, my response was this:

Yeah, I know she didn't intend to do it...
but that doesn't make it hurt us less.

And therein lies the inherent value of siblings.

They know exactly what that means.

No matter how horrible this journey has been,






For that gift, given to me by my parents, I will be eternally grateful.


  1. This post seems to show that you are healing in your own way. That is a good thing. We all heal/grieve in a different manner. Your brother is a very positive aspect of your life.


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