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Of Mice And Men And Brothers And Sisters

August 23, 2019

Unfortunately, I do not have a super close relationship with my brother and my sister. I have felt embarrassed by this fact for many years until I recently learned that this is not uncommon in many families from the 1950’s. Contrary to the days of Ozzie and Harriet in which I grrew up, many families have drifted apart. I still feel badly about my own case. Let me explain.

Fast backward to 1958. (Is there such a thing?) I am walking my younger sister to elementary school. As we walk the mile or so, I am teaching her the multiplication tables with flash cards. As her big brother, I love and protect her with all my being and she is special. She loves me too. We are brother and sister in the traditional post-war American sense. Fast forward. We haven’t spoken since 2001. How does this happen?

My brother and I have never been super close but at least we had a relationship through the years. He is four years younger than me and we didn’t have the same friends in school growing up. We wound up being from slightly different eras. We both tried to compensate over the years. I remember one of the greatest nights in my life when my brother and I spent an evening playing music together. We wrote a song or two together and we were feeling connected, sort of brotherly tight. It was spectacular! I will cherish those few hours forever. They were composed of what life is supposed to be about.

I also remember a really fun trip to Northern California in the Redwoods with my brother. We were coming together from different viewpoints, making up for a little lost time and getting a little closer. It was the Age of Acquarius but we could still see eye to eye. Today? We still certainly speak but it is sparingly sparse, punctuated ocassionally with awkward moments of silence. We have different lives, different politics and different values. We even live in several different countries. It’s tough. We both try but often I’m afraid we fail more than we succeed. I wish it weren’t so! I love him dearly.

My sister and I parted ways after the death of my parents. After a hiatus, I tried contacting my sister several years ago to no avail. I sent a Christmas package to her from Italy full of little curiosities from the village where our father was born and never received a response. I hadn’t really expected one but the silent fact that we were once so close and now we don’t talk at all cuts deep. I hope she’s doing well in her world lightyears away and I would like to think that every now and then she thinks of me, perhaps even with a smile as I do with her. However in honesty I tend to doubt it.

My brother is complex. He may sometimes think I resent him for this fact when in reality I admire him for his complexity and independence. He is an iconoclast. So am I but we are so different in so many little ways that always seem to cloud our vision of one another. There seems to always be the politics of the day, a little too much distance and not enough time. I keep trying but I fear that I am pushing against the wind. Time will tell but the clock is running down; the batteries will someday soon expire.

I often pose the excuse that all three of us were raised to be super fiercely independent. Maybe we are too much so. We were taught from an early age to be our own selves and find our own paths in life. We are all indeed very independent and self-driven. We all have been very successful in life. My sister is a very well-known mountain climber and artist; my brother is an accomplished poet, editor, actor and musician; I am a professional writer who has also been an actor, songwriter and so much more. Success: Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing? But where did so much of the love and closeness go? Was it absorbed in the vacuum of time or was it chipped away in the valley of indifference or simply lost in the passing years and bussle of our own personal lives? I wish I knew and I wish I knew how to right our boat, but I honestly don’t.

Of mice and men and brothers and sisters, I don’t seem to have learned a lot a lot and that is a shame. Maybe in another lifetime?

Photo: Brothers and sisters in the early days.

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21 Comments
  1. Anch’io ho un rapporto che é diventato inesistente con mio fratello dopo la scomparsa di nostra madre.
    Ne soffro ma lo accetto
    Forse in un’altra vita…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband (Iowa) is 7 years older than his sister (California), who is 7 years older than their brother (Indiana). Their mother (age 95) is in the hospital (Iowa) right now, and they’ve been talking a lot more than normal!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. L.Roach permalink

    Wow Allen, this post really hit home! I have two younger brothers and sadly we rarely speak. We have completely different views on everything – including politics, life, culture and work. Unfortunately there is no common ground for a conversation and they always seem to be drowning in their sorrows. Needless to say, I try to limit exposure to toxic people in my life. It’s sad when my brothers fall into this category. Thanks for your insights, so very much appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting. It is indeed a sad blight on our lives when we can’t find enough common ground for love to thrive. Keep trying – I do!

      Like

  4. The bonds of family run deep. Our childhood is a part of us, and so are our brothers and sisters. It is strange sometimes the way things go, yet a closeness remains…if only the remembrance of what was… and the love is for always.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a wonderful and deeply honest post, Allen. I don’t think the situation is unusual, but that doesn’t make it less painful. I was close to my brothers growing up, but our adult lives took us on very different paths. I’m glad I had reconnected somewhat with my older brother before he died, but have been utterly incapable of developing a relationship with his daughter or widow. My younger brother and I stay in touch, but he is uber-involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and I am anti-religion, so we just have to steer clear of that topic. My quarterly family newsletter has helped bridge some gaps between distant family. Seems no one lives close to anyone else!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I applaud your honesty in dealing with a family situation. Maybe someday, you all will find some common ground. Families sure can be a mess.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Message In A Bottle permalink

    I could write a lot more on this topic, but I’ll try to keep it brief.

    Families can be complex, and differences can appear to the outsider to be unwarranted. But the outsider doesn’t see the entirety of the line that stretches back through the decades. I’ve always held the belief that it’s not necessary, or even particularly desirable for that matter, to automatically want to be around someone because they are part of your family. Like other people in my life, it depends on the person, what we share, where we find common ground, the history we have, and its duration.

    Sure, there’s a family bond that makes things different than other people who come into your life, but sometimes it’s a bond that customs and norms say should exist, sometimes it’s a true bond, and frequently some of each.

    Moreover, it’s too easy to say “politics of the day.” People say that the political and the personal are (or should be) separate, but I see the two as related, at least lately. Like it or not, we live in an era where politics has gone way beyond difference of actual policy – which usually is a minor thing – to a place that reveals how you see the world, or at least what you are willing to accept, and/or what you’re willing to overlook. It’s become a character test, one that is blind to family connections, one that crosses indiscriminately the borders of brotherhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Keep trying. One has only so many brothers and sisters… 🙂

    Like

  9. Appunto! Continuerò a provare.

    Like

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