Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - A Sister or a Brother is a Built-in Friend



"Children of the same family, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply." Jane Austen 


Last week, business took me to my home state of New Mexico to facilitate a Family Council Meeting and Family Foundation Meeting in Santa Fe with a client family from Oklahoma. Afterwards I spent a few days with five of my own brothers and sisters who still live in the Land of Enchantment. It was deeply nourishing on many levels.
Ours was a large "yours, mine, and ours" family, with 13 siblings altogether. I was the second of my parents' seven children. My older brother Alan was killed on his bike by a drunk hit-and-run driver when he was 8 and I was 6. Two years later, my mother died of throat cancer. About a year after that, my father Marion married Elaine, a widow whose husband had died of leukemia. She brought her five children into the mix.
Marion and Elaine worked long and hard to meld us into a unified family. That idea eventually took root and we came to fully believe it. The birth of our youngest brother, Brent, helped to weld us together. Technically we may be wholes, halfs, and steps, but we don't think of ourselves that way. We're just brothers and sisters.
Before last week, I hadn't seen my brothers and sisters since our most recent siblings-and-spouses' reunion two years ago in Illinois, when we took this picture.

My visits with each of them were deep and rich and soul-satisfying. It's easy to "get down to the lick log," as they say in the South, when you've been through what we've experienced together.
The passing of the years and the extended distance don't change that. We've gotten slower and grayer, but that doesn't diminish our profound and timeless connection. We love being together. There's a unique and unbreakable bond among us.
Clara Ortega's description fits the relationship we now share: "To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we really are. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
It's a powerful thing to be with a group who all understand where we came from because we all came from there together. I'm beginning to appreciate the implications of Susan Scarf Merrell's observation that "[o]ur brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk."
We're not completely over the hill and we haven't faded into the sunset just yet, but as we approach our twilight years, it's comforting and reassuring to know we're not traveling that road alone. We're part of a circle of built-in friends. We are brothers and sisters.
I think Marion and Elaine would be proud of what we've become.

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