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Happy Siblings Day

Published in ChicagoNow, April 10, 2017

Today is my brother’s birthday, so I was searching old family photos for one of his baby pictures to post on Facebook. But it is also Siblings Day, so how could I leave my baby brother out of the celebration? As the three of us have become seniors, orphans, and grandparents, the squabbles and feuds of the past have faded and the bond of siblinghood has become increasingly important.

One of my favorite writers, Erma Bombeck, described her siblings as,

“… a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”

Lovingly teasing big sister

That sounds about right. As the older sister, I was bossy, condescending, and demanding. My brothers fought, often physically, as they tried to share a small bedroom. Teasing. Door slamming. Squabbling. Crying. All were part of our years growing up. And yet, there were moments of friendship and caring mixed in with the rivalry and strife.

Sharing the “swimming pool” with our neighbors.

My parents didn’t read books like Siblings Without Rivalry. They expected us to fight and work out our issues on our own. They largely ignored our sibling struggles unless there was blood. No sense trying to get our mother to take sides the way my own three children played me. So, we grew up, married, started our own families, and were not huge parts of each other’s lives. And yet, the bond survived.

Here we are, celebrating my middle brother turning 69 and discussing things like Medicare, retirement, aches and pains, and grandkids. Perhaps it was losing our parents in 2012 and 2015 that changed everything. We are now at the top of the generational chart. There is no one left who remembers our dog Checkers or how my little brother used to crawl through the milk chute to let us into the house or playing with toy soldiers together in the basement. It’s all on us now.

Such a 50s look

Clara Ortega explained the sibling bond this way:

“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. 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.”

We don’t see each other that often. I live in a different state and my brothers do not live close to one another. Facebook helps to keep up to date on what our kids and grandkids are doing, but life goes on and we only talk from time to time. Still, as I searched for photos for my brother’s birthday and this post, I was overcome with love and nostalgia. No matter what, we will always have our shared upbringing and each other’s backs. Happy Siblings Day, bros.

Last photo with Mom


by Laurie Levy
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