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Of Mice And Men And Brothers And Sisters

October 1, 2022

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 grew 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 Aquarius but we could still see eye to eye. Today? We still certainly speak but it is sparingly sparse, punctuated occasionally 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 bustle 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 and that is a shame. Maybe in another lifetime?

Photo: Brothers and sisters in the early days.

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  1. Heavy stuff, Allen, contemplating why families drift apart. It’s the world we live in, I guess. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter Jaramillo permalink

    You are not alone. I have four sisters, all alive yet only one speaks with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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