for release Friday February 18, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Siblings: For Better and For Worse
In November I wrote a two-part series on “Getting along as adult siblings.” It appears to be a subject about which people have deep feelings, associations and memories, both good and bad. I thought readers would enjoy hearing others’ experiences, like I did:
Most touching was Shirley Keafer’s story of a loving sibling’s devotion. “In June 2002 I was told by my doctors I needed a stem cell transplant, which was the only known treatment for my rare blood disease. I have two living siblings. The chance of a match is one in four siblings. I contacted both my brothers and one was an identical match. After extensive chemo to kill off my bone marrow, I was given his stem cells. One year later I developed leukemia. After more chemo, I was given my brother’s lymphocytes (white blood cells). My cancer is now in remission (praise the Lord).”
Not all sibling relationships are so loving. One mother shared regretfully about her two adult daughters: “They always got along so well but as they got to be in their twenties that changed. One of the girls lives 2400 miles away and we didn’t see her for 3 1/2 years because of the man she met and married. They have a son who is 16 months old and we have only seen him briefly. It is killing me. The daughter that lives here is trying very hard to be closer to her sister but the other one is a stranger to us now. I also have a sister who thinks she is better than I am and yet professes to be a wonderful Christian. She tells me that we are different people so it was only natural that we would not be close. She has not spoken to me in about eight years. We never had a disagreement or fight but she just feels she is too good to be around me.”
One woman wrote, “There are nine children in my family. I am the one who left the flock too soon because I was a ‘sickling’ and never went back so that makes me sort of the outcast in the eyes of my siblings. We get along together most of the time but there is the feeling that our parents favored me and they had to do all the work on the farm. Funny how jealousy creeps in and we each remember the same incident in different ways. One of my sisters argues that things that happened to me did not happen the way I remember them at all. Funny, huh?”
A man described his painful relationships: “I was a ‘victim’ of sibling abuse for most of my childhood. I used to think that there was something wrong with me, because I thought that I just couldn’t handle what was supposed to be ‘normal’ sibling rivalry. I grew up with two older brothers. The eldest was a very loving, protective brother. The second eldest was truly mean, and abusive to me. I was the one you mentioned that withdrew from the pain, and stuffed it all in for many, many years. Later in life, this abusive brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and this has somewhat helped me to understand why he was that way during those painful years.”
On the other side, Dawn wrote, “I am the oldest of seven children so I have been heavily ‘impacted’ by siblings! The chaos when we are all together (our ages range from 16-36) is real, but so is the love. Certainly there were moments of rivalry, but none of us can remember why.”
As is so often the case, the crisis of a parents’ illness or passing is a time siblings renew their bonds. Maria shared, “My dad’s brother passed away yesterday after a brief three- weeks’ illness. The sibling love and bond you have talked about, I have seen it recently in my dad’s siblings and my own. Crises like these are always dealt with better when we have family, especially siblings, to cushion them. Furthermore, your article has also made me realize that my husband and I should try harder for another child, to give a sibling for our only son.”
Julie writes, “I have three daughters grown now with their own children (two of them have four children each). After 37 years my husband left me, prior to that my parents had died. I feel very alone now. I am active in my church and have friends through many groups I belong to. I visit my kids and grandchildren regularly, but I feel very sad not to have siblings. There is no one out there left from my core family, no one to really understand those years. I told my daughters how I have heard many people lately, ages 40 and above (who only had two children out of choice) who wished they had more. Those with the large families reap the blessings of grandchildren. I am blessed with nine grandchildren. Yes, siblings are a blessing. All those with siblings ought to value them.”
Andrielle echoes the above sentiment: “I don’t have any siblings...neither did my mother nor my grandmother and currently my son is an only child but I am three-months pregnant and I am praying that my children will be close and bonded (there will be ten years difference).”
Finally, a friend wrote about the warm memories of growing up days, and the bond she now shares with her sister. I had shared with her about having to share a bed with my sister. “We had to share beds, too. I remember the comfort of flannel nightgowns, and snuggling like ‘spoons’ to get warm. We did backrubs too, and took turns drawing pictures and writing words on each other’s backs and guessing what was being drawn or written. In high school I became extremely jealous of this happy, social, cheerleader sister, and for the next 10-15 years we did not have a very good relationship. It took a long time to put that jealousy away, to be able to realize what a wonderful person she truly is. She’s been a great sister. I owe her much.”
If you would like the complete three-part series (including this one) on “Getting Along as Adult Siblings,” I can send you a copy by e-mail or regular mail if you send your applicable address. Send to Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail email@example.com (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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