Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I have a baby brother. Well, he’s not a baby anymore. At 68, he’s two years my junior. My mother used to tell me that he and I were close when we were very young; he would wait on the doorstep for me to return home after school. Neither he nor I remember that, but I was always pleased to take her word for it.
Over the years, my brother and I have not been close. There was never a formal breach, but I had expectations about how a brother and sister should treat each other and he wouldn’t comply. I was glad to initiate our communicating with each other, but not 100% of the time. He was supposed to reciprocate at least occasionally. That wasn’t his way.
We did have differences. He and his wife were going to buy a mountain condo with us; we discovered in the process that we had conflicting plans for using the condo. Our intention was to use it primarily for rental, especially at the holidays; their expectation was to use the condo whenever any of us wanted to use it. Our plans were different; I got angry at their plans (which they’d never mentioned, although neither did we) and I think that has forever been a nick in the fabric of our relationship. Many years—probably 30 years—have passed since my outburst, but I think the scars remain.
Along the way, I decided to confront my brother about his lack of interest in all four of us occasionally getting together. (At the time we lived in Colorado, about a 20-minute drive apart.) My bottom-line question was, “Why are you so uninterested in spending time with us?” His honest answer: “We just don’t have much in common with you two.”
We never discussed it again. I started to adjust to the reality that we were not going to have an active relationship with them, unless I was going to take charge. And I was not willing to do that. (I do know now how arbitrary and unkind my expectations were.) Meanwhile, he moved to southern CO and we live in FL.
But something shifted for me when my mother passed away seven years ago. (I can’t believe it’s been that long.) My brother, younger sister (from whom I am estranged by her choice) and I had to work together on my mother’s estate. It was cordial and helpful, and we all knew what we needed to do. The estate was small, but my brother volunteered to go through most of her investments, annuities and insurance policies to determine what was still active. It was not a fun job. But he did it willingly, regularly updating us on the results. My sister handled the sale of my mother’s mobile home, and I handled most of the rest. I was amazed at how well we all worked together, not fighting over personal items and willingly letting each person have those things that were important to him or her.
Once all that was settled, I only had two contacts with each of them. I asked my sister to forgive those grievances she held toward me in honor of Yom Kippur, and she did (although I have not heard from her since). My brother surprised me with an email a few years ago, just a newsy piece, and I responded, and then communications ended.
The other day, however, I suddenly realized that I had a special opportunity to do some healing. I decided to write a newsy email to my brother with no expectations (although I did hope to hear back from him). I wrote, and he answered the same day, with a newsy email, updating me on his wife and dogs, and said he was glad to hear from me.
He was glad to hear from me.
Don’t misunderstand—I don’t anticipate the blooming of a new and vital relationship. Instead I have a new perspective. I have a brother whom I love. If I choose to stay in touch, he may choose to reciprocate. But if he doesn’t, I know that I have renewed a connection that may have died for lack of a simple act of love.
I’m going to write back to him, thank him for updating me and for his kind words, and maybe say that I will write every few months, and if he is so inclined, he can write back.
That seems like the kind and loving thing to do.
If you are a person who has lost touch with someone you love, and are feeling alone and sad, consider contacting that person to renew the connection, without expectations.
You might be surprised.Published in