Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Brothers and Sisters

 

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.”

Ouch.

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.

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  1. The Reticulator Member

    Several days ago it seemed to me that people of my generation are wanting to make or renew contacts during this virus time. It may be due to the isolation, or maybe just due to the danger for oldsters. A sister of mine who lives alone says the main change brought by the virus is that she is getting more emails from people who are checking in on her. (Her county doesn’t have any COVID-19 cases yet.)

    • #1
    • March 31, 2020, at 10:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Several days ago it seemed to me that people of my generation are wanting to make or renew contacts during this virus time. It may be due to the isolation, or maybe just due to the danger for oldsters. A sister of mine who lives alone says the main change brought by the virus is that she is getting more emails from people who are checking in on her. (Her county doesn’t have any COVID-19 cases yet.)

    I have had friends check on me, too, or we are checking on each other. I don’t know all the reasons, but I can say it is a loving and sweet thing to do. Thanks, @thereticulator.

    • #2
    • March 31, 2020, at 10:33 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Full Size Tabby Member

    Susan Quinn: 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.”

    Mrs. Tabby, who is not close with any of her five siblings, has noted often that just because people share blood doesn’t necessarily mean they share interests. With one exception, none of the siblings have grievances or bad feelings against each other. They are just all very different people. 

    • #3
    • March 31, 2020, at 10:41 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    Mrs. Tabby, who is not close with any of her five siblings, has noted often that just because people share blood doesn’t necessarily mean they share interests. With one exception, none of the siblings have grievances or bad feelings against each other. They are just all very different people. 

    Well, you don’t have to be best friends with your siblings. The fact is, you share a history. And if we care about each other, we can make an effort to know about each others’ lives; I learned some things from my brother’s letter that I’d like to know more about (like his heart condition). But as long as everyone Mrs. Tabby’s family feels that way, it works!

    • #4
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Rodin Member

    There is the old saying that “You can choose your friends but not your family.” And therein lies a lot of different relationships. Some families are “tighter than ticks” (as the saying goes). Others are simply people who you identify through Ancestry.com because you share DNA. It’s great when everyone gets along but its not so great when expectations amongst family members are not in sync. I think the “American” nuclear family structure that was stereotypical for mid -20th century and beyond and with advances in job/home mobility made it less oppressive for those that shun the big hierarchical multi-generational structure. But family life can be complicated regardless of its size and generations. People are people and get by the best they can.

    • #5
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  6. Kay of MT Member

    My older brother and I have been very close most of our lives. We got into a dispute over our mother’s illness, death and estate, that separated us for 20 years. Last year he volunteered to pay for expensive hearing aids that stunned me. And now he e-mails me regularly. He lives in CO, and am hopping he will come visit me in MT.

    • #6
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    My older brother and I have been very close most of our lives. We got into a dispute over our mother’s illness, death and estate, that separated us for 20 years. Last year he volunteered to pay for expensive hearing aids that stunned me. And now he e-mails me regularly. He lives in CO, and am hopping he will come visit me in MT.

    @kayofmt, what a great story! We can never know for sure how life will unfold. I’m so glad you two reconciled.

    • #7
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: At 68, he’s two years my junior.

    I think your math is wrong. Doesn’t that make him 28?

    Flattery aside, my wife’s late brother was two years older, and they never got along growing up. Still, when he became destitute in his later years, we bought him a house to live in and helped support him until he died a little over two years ago. We’re not great humanitarians by any means, but family is family.

    Oh, we’d finally gotten that house fixed and put on the market when the Chinese flu hit. Talk about bad timing . . .

    • #8
    • March 31, 2020, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. aardo vozz Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: At 68, he’s two years my junior.

    I think your math is wrong. Doesn’t that make him 28?

    Flattery aside, my wife’s late brother was two years older, and they never got along growing up. Still, when he became destitute in his later years, we bought him a house to live in and helped support him until he died a little over two years ago. We’re not great humanitarians by any means, but family is family.

    Oh, we’d finally gotten that house fixed and put on the market when the Chinese flu hit. Talk about bad timing . . .

    I think the timing was great: you were able to help someone when they needed help. The house will eventually sell.🙂

    • #9
    • March 31, 2020, at 1:10 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. Full Size Tabby Member

    My brother and I are a complete contrast to Mrs. Tabby and her siblings. Most of our adult lives we have lived in different parts of the country, but as of 9 months ago we are only 95 miles apart, so now we can get together (though not at this moment of everybody staying home).

    When our mother had a paralyzing stroke just before her death ten years ago, the hospital social worker was impressed with our ability to agree on care decisions, and said she wished all families could agree the way we did. 

    • #10
    • March 31, 2020, at 1:17 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hate to see family members who won’t talk to each other. Siblings don’t need to be friends, but they should never shut each other out.

    My wife knows two sisters who no longer talk to each other because of a dispute over money when their mother died. The thing is, their mom was dirt poor so we are not talking about very much money at all. And now my wife can’t let one know that she still talks to the other. Life is too short to be petty and the fact is, if need be, there are only so many good matches out there if you ever need a kidney.

    • #11
    • March 31, 2020, at 1:23 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. Weeping Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: 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.”

    Mrs. Tabby, who is not close with any of her five siblings, has noted often that just because people share blood doesn’t necessarily mean they share interests. With one exception, none of the siblings have grievances or bad feelings against each other. They are just all very different people.

    And living in different parts of the country (as my siblings and I do – one in the Boston area, one in southeast Tennessee, and one in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area), can make things more difficult as well. Not only may you not have the same interests, but you don’t have external things in common either – places, people, etc.

    • #12
    • March 31, 2020, at 2:30 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My brother and I always got along. Well, there was the one time he bounced a golf ball off the back of my head. And the time I tied him to a tree in the backyard. Come to think of it, those happened in the same afternoon within about five minutes of each other.

    My sister and I were a little different. She had the misfortune of having the same teachers I had before the warm glow of my presence had had a chance to dissipate. Or before the therapy had had a chance to kick in. One of those. She was very competitive. I just didn’t try. I think that more than anything else annoyed her. But eventually we both grew up.

    • #13
    • March 31, 2020, at 3:11 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Randy Webster Member

    I had two brothers. The older died early last year of cancer. We weren’t estranged, but we weren’t all that close. My younger brother and I only see each other a couple of times a year, but I wouldn’t miss those times for anything.

    • #14
    • March 31, 2020, at 4:15 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Spin Inactive
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Look, as the younger brother of a sister I can only say one thing here, Susan: it’s clearly all your fault! Ha ha! Kidding!

    My sister and I don’t really get along well. When we are around each other, we are cordial. But we don’t go out of our way to spend time together. There are a lot of reasons for this, which I won’t go in to here. Like your brother said: we just don’t have a lot in common.

    I think at the end of the day, though family is supposed to be very important, some times it just doesn’t work out that your are close friends.

    • #15
    • March 31, 2020, at 4:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    My younger brother and I only see each other a couple of times a year, but I wouldn’t miss those times for anything.

    Good for you, Randy. That’s wonderful.

    • #16
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:12 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Southern Pessimist Inactive

    Childhood and the complicated process of becoming what we become is often a painful process. Our siblings play a large part in that. Even in families where everyone feels supported, everyone has an entirely different interpretation and memory of those shared experiences. It is all too easy to brood on your own interpretation and gradually turn that into resentment. Pray for humility and act on that in the small ways that you might be comfortable with. One step at a time. Prayerful humility can heal many wounds.

    • #17
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:13 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Childhood and the complicated process of becoming what we become is often a painful process. Our siblings play a large part in that. Even in families where everyone feels supported, everyone has an entirely different interpretation and memory of those shared experiences. It is all too easy to brood on your own interpretation and gradually turn that into resentment. Pray for humility and act on that in the small ways that you might be comfortable with. One step at a time. Prayerful humility can heal many wounds.

    Beautiful, @southernpessimist. Humility (which took me a while to learn) is key. Thanks.

    • #18
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:14 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. JustmeinAZ Member

    I am the oldest of 6 and I was 7 when the next oldest was born. The others came along pretty regularly after that and I was, in effect, a second mother to them all. I remember being fond of, and actually loving all of them. However I left home at 19 and never lived close enough to maintain contact. So I kinda fell out of love with them. 

    We have a cordial relationship although all the others are closer to one another since they grew up together. My two remaining sisters (one died) are brain dead liberals. My two brothers are as wild-eyed right as I am and I am fonder of them. However, if we all were to meet as strangers I doubt that we would be friends. 

    My brother has arranged an interment at Quantico in July for my parents, both of whom have died in the last 3 years (my father was a Navy veteran) and they are trying to make it into a reunion but I don’t really want to go. I don’t feel affection or obligation just because they’re “blood”.

     

    • #19
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:26 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    I am the oldest of 6 and I was 7 when the next oldest was born. The others came along pretty regularly after that and I was, in effect, a second mother to them all. I remember being fond of, and actually loving all of them. However I left home at 19 and never lived close enough to maintain contact. So I kinda fell out of love with them.

    We have a cordial relationship although all the others are closer to one another since they grew up together. My two remaining sisters (one died) are brain dead liberals. My two brothers are as wild-eyed right as I am and I am fonder of them. However, if we all were to meet as strangers I doubt that we would be friends.

    My brother has arranged an interment at Quantico in July for my parents, both of whom have died in the last 3 years (my father was a Navy veteran) and they are trying to make it into a reunion but I don’t really want to go. I don’t feel affection or obligation just because they’re “blood”.

     

    So many losses, @justmeinaz. And families can be so complicated. Wishing for you a decision that works for you.

    • #20
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    I am the oldest of 6 and I was 7 when the next oldest was born. The others came along pretty regularly after that and I was, in effect, a second mother to them all. I remember being fond of, and actually loving all of them. However I left home at 19 and never lived close enough to maintain contact. So I kinda fell out of love with them.

    We have a cordial relationship although all the others are closer to one another since they grew up together. My two remaining sisters (one died) are brain dead liberals. My two brothers are as wild-eyed right as I am and I am fonder of them. However, if we all were to meet as strangers I doubt that we would be friends.

    My brother has arranged an interment at Quantico in July for my parents, both of whom have died in the last 3 years (my father was a Navy veteran) and they are trying to make it into a reunion but I don’t really want to go. I don’t feel affection or obligation just because they’re “blood”.

     

    So many losses, @justmeinaz. I know you’ll make the decision that is right for you.

    • #21
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Speaking of annoying younger brothers . . .

    • #22
    • March 31, 2020, at 6:28 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Roderic Reagan

    Susan Quinn: 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.

    Yeah, guys are famous for that.

    • #23
    • March 31, 2020, at 8:21 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. Maddy Member

    I am one of eight. Ten years between the oldest and youngest. We used to fight like cats and dogs when we were kids. I remember mom praying that we would at least like each other when we grew up. We do.

    • #24
    • March 31, 2020, at 8:36 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    I’m the sixth of eight kids. Five girls, three boys. Four girls first, my older brother, me, and two younger brothers. We stay in contact regularly. It has taken a lot of effort since my mom died suddenly five years ago. My dad remarried two years later, two days after my mom’s birthday. He didn’t really talk to anyone before he did it. It has caused a lot of grief.

    We are much closer than we were back in 2017 and some of my siblings are still smarting from it. But we text each other regularly. We’re concerned about the family business with COVID-19 and the recent earthquake. Nearly everyone felt it.

    Not to mention great nieces and nephews being born. Returning missionaries, basketball, graduations, etc. We are the closest the last few months than we have been in a long time. Because I’m the youngest girl and have poor health, I get lectured regularly! 

    I think we all do the best we can. I do think it’s important to try to mend the breach. If we can’t do it ourselves, we can do it with God’s grace.

    • #25
    • March 31, 2020, at 8:55 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    ShaunaHunt (View Comment):
    I think we all do the best we can.

    And I hope that is true for all of us, @shaunahunt. Thank you.

    • #26
    • April 1, 2020, at 6:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Stad Thatcher

    aardo vozz (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: At 68, he’s two years my junior.

    I think your math is wrong. Doesn’t that make him 28?

    Flattery aside, my wife’s late brother was two years older, and they never got along growing up. Still, when he became destitute in his later years, we bought him a house to live in and helped support him until he died a little over two years ago. We’re not great humanitarians by any means, but family is family.

    Oh, we’d finally gotten that house fixed and put on the market when the Chinese flu hit. Talk about bad timing . . .

    I think the timing was great: you were able to help someone when they needed help. The house will eventually sell.🙂

    We think it will. Even with all this chaos going on, it is being shown. This area has a demand for cheap housing, and “The Hovel” as we call it is pretty dang cheap!

    • #27
    • April 1, 2020, at 7:03 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Kay of MT Member

    Private contact me Stad, as I would like to move to SC to be near my Nephew and nieces in SC. John lives down the road from you. I would not mind living in a hovel.

    Edited to ask: is that house in Aiken SC? He is a Contract/Builder and would probably come and get me.

    • #28
    • April 1, 2020, at 10:03 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  29. Stina Member

    By the standards of some on this conversation, I probably come from a tight knit family.

    It’s hard to say. We share a lot in common and we get along. But we are separated by space. We have our own lives.

    I certainly hear from and see far less of my brothers, though I’ve managed to get one of them to take one of my kids camping. We like to see each other when I’m visiting our parents or around the holidays – we love the holidays. We also pass birthday wishes and if something comes up that someone can help with, we get in touch.

    My sister and I hated eachother as kids. Not so much hate as not really knowing what the other was good for. There was disrespect, conceit, and bitterness. Since I became a mother, there’s been much less disrespect and conceit. As I have settled into motherhood and talked more with my sister, less bitterness. My last trip to visit made me comfortable in saying my sister falls in the friend category. Not best friends, but someone I feel confident being vulnerable around now.

    I don’t need to hear from them often or see them much. I know after our parents die, the dynamic will shift. I try not to have to high of expectations on the relationships. I’m happy that we like each other and can play a game of Mah Jong or talk animatedly about a variety of subjects without wanting to kill each other when together.

    • #29
    • April 1, 2020, at 11:19 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Stina (View Comment):
    By the standards of some on this conversation, I probably come from a tight knit family.

    It sounds like you have a lovely family, Stina. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    • #30
    • April 1, 2020, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 1 like