Wednesday Wisdom - A Sister or a Brother is a Built-in Friend
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
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
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
I think Marion and Elaine would be proud of what we've become.