It is one of those short scenes that is imbedded in my pea-brain: It was 1975. My (then) 17-year-old brother was dressing for a date. He was standing there, hands by side, with a questioning look on his face as he waited for my reply to: “how does this look?” He was wearing striped pants and a print shirt. It looked awful.
“Stan,” I bluntly said, “it doesn’t match. At all.” He looked down at the clothes, then back at me, then shrugged his shoulders. As he walked away to leave for the date, he muttered, “I don’t have to look at me.”
That depicts my older brother. He’s like that.
April 10 is National Sibling Day. The holiday has been around since 1997 and was officially saluted (whatever that means) in the Congressional Record of the US Congress in 2005. It was created by Claudia Evart, a woman who had lost both of her siblings, and was/is for the purpose of “honoring the relationships of siblings.” Who knew!?
Relationships with siblings are odd—they are (kinda) forced on you. You are expected to play sweet and share all your worldly possessions without ever choosing to do so. And if ya don’t play by the rules, ya get spanked. (Or at least, the four of us did.)
I was number two in the pecking order of our boy/girl/boy/girl sibling group.
Stan is 17-months my senior. He made me scratch his back when I was young and then practiced karate on me when he was older: “if I kick you, it’s your fault. Just don’t move.”—Oh. Okay. Stan is now the father of 11 children. YES, ELEVEN! And, in his mid 50’s, he coaches several of this kids basketball and softball teams. He also dons a glove and pitches on the softball team he is on with his oldest son, just so he can “spend some time with him.” Though we despised each other during most of our teenage years, I, kinda like him now…I even admire him.
Then 19 months after me came Danny, a leap year baby. Growing up, Danny played hard and he hated school, or at least the sitting still for seven-hours-a-day part. One time, his teacher called my parents to inform them that he had screamed out (yelled, hollered, shouted, whatever…) in his quiet classroom. After the call came the confrontation: “Son, why did you do that?” His simple explanation: “I just felt like it.”–Oh. Okay.
When Danny was older he was known to do freaky, backhandedly-nice things for people that left each of them thinking that they had possibly encountered an angel. For instance, on one particular sunny day he pulled into our neighborhood in our baby-blue Pontiac (which all four of us shared) only to spot a boy who had just crashed his bike. The kid was on the ground crying like a little girl. Danny pulled over the next to the accident victim. “WHAT IS WRONG HERE!?” he questioned with authority. The kid was bamboozled (I love that word) and just stared at him.
Danny had just purchased a Mountain Dew, and had yet to open it, which he did at that moment. “Here! Drink this!” he ordered as he thrust the cold drink into the crying boy’s face. “It is a magic potion and it will help you get strong!” The kid did as was told. (…every 21st century parent’s nightmare….) Danny then reached over, grabbed the stunned kid’s hand and helped him up. “Get back on your bike!” Oh. Okay.
The kid, again, did as he was told as Danny held onto the back of the seat and encouraged him on. The dry-eyed kid rode off into summer heat. I can only imagine how that replayed to his mom.
As an adult Danny continues the backhanded niceness. And he freely gives time, compliments, and himself to his many friends that he has acquired over the years. Each of them had a unique story of how Danny had done something kind just for them.
Then three years after Danny came the mistake—uh, I mean Kelly. My parents never told her she was a mistake. Her loving,”honoring” siblings made sure, though, that she knew. Her rebuttal to our constant heckling was that our parents were “striving for perfection and finally attained it with her.”— Oh. Okay.
I could always fight better than Kelly and reminded her of that nightly. We shared a room and a bed. Each night turned into a girly version of a muffled punching, kicking and pushing-off-the-bed fiasco. This went on until my dad could tolerate the giggling no more: “Girls, you don’t want me to come in there!” (No. We didn’t.)
Since there were/are five years between us, you could say that we outgrew that phase quickly. I turned into a teenager, we got twin beds, and she became, simply, ‘my little sister’. Our lives hardly intersected. I had bigger and better things to do than to tend to her.
Fast forward through our two weddings and our five children and somehow, a best friend evolved. There was no particular event that made that happen. Though we come from a family of unabashed laughter and constant verbal-sparring, each of us could not imagine that we are less witty than the other. However, Kelly can make me laugh when no one else can. I often tell her, “You just blurt out what other people only think.” (She thinks that’s a compliment.)
We share our secrets, we verbalize our complaints and, we utter our fears. She is the first one I ask to pray for me…because I know that she actually will.
I love my siblings and cannot imagine who I would be without them. Through them I learned how to build forts, and create environments, and to actually play-sweet. Through them I learned problem solving and conflict-resolution. Through them I learned how to ask for forgiveness and how to forgive. I can now say that I honestly value every verbal altercation, every sarcastic remark, every unsolicited (good or bad) comment, and every side-splitting gaggle.
In 1995 our mom died, and in 2000 we lost our dad. And yet, we are still family. We purpose to see each other as often as we can, and when there are only three of us we take the “absent photo”—intending to taunt the missing sibling by leaving an empty space for them.
And, we always laugh. It marks us.
To everyone who is reading this I say, take a cue from Claudia Evart, the founder of this ostentatious holiday, and tell your siblings you love ‘em. You won’t regret it.
To Stan, Danny, and Kelly I say: I am so glad and so thankful to God that I am able to walk this planet with you throughout our lives. I love each of you dearly, and I love you together. I wouldn’t change one minute of our years together….except for maybe that time when….