Brothers and Sisters

On regular occasion, when any or all of my three children are arguing or fighting over some ridiculous insignificant issue, I tell them, “You need to love your brother/sister because when something bad happens to you and we’re [parents] not around, they will be the only people that will be there for you no matter what.” I say this with the hope that they will have a much better support system in place when some tragedy strikes their lives (because it is inevitable that tragedy strikes us all at some point), but I say it in sincerity knowing that when some sort of terrible thing happens to you, people around you may do their best to empathize but no one feels your pain like your parents and like your brother and sister.

I have a niece that is an only child and my children see her the same as a sibling and I am so glad that she is in the same city. She laughs and plays with my kids and frustrates my kids just like she is a sibling. I have two other nieces that live about 8 hours away and I think it would be awesome if they were here too but when they come into town, they fall right into the fray.

I have an older brother and an older sister. My brother is 5 year older than me and my sister is 2 years older. Growing up, my brother and I shared a bedroom for a while and after he moved into the addition, I had a tough time adjusting to him being gone, even though he was only on the other side of the house.  One of the most poignant memories I have about my brother is all the cool stuff he kept on his shelves in his bedroom. He had a boom box that my parents had gotten him and he always had a little bowl full of coins. I’d sneak out .50 cents every now and then so I’d have some money for ice cream or candy or baseball cards and when he’d realize that I’d been in there, he’d scream and hollar how he didn’t want me in his bedroom. One of the funniest things I remember about my brother is when we would all get spankings for whatever group crime we committed. My mom or dad would spank us and send us to the back bedroom. For some weird reason, Martha and I were always first when it came to spankings and Robert was last. Me and Martha would be crying and tending to our emotional wounds in the back bedroom and Robert would come in with this crooked little smile on his face and make some comment about how his spanking didn’t hurt. Before we knew it, we were all laughing.

We all had friends coming to the house on a regular basis but when Robert’s friends would come over, there’s nothing I wanted more than to be a part of whatever it was they were doing. Of course, I was sent away most of the time but it never discouraged me from trying to weasel my way into the group. He had two good friends, Jeff and Troy, that would use me as a punching bag and would ask me if I wanted to “swap hits.” You know this game. It’s where you punch each other in the arm until one of you gives up. They would always let me go first and I would muster every bit of energy I had and would lay into them as hard as I could with little to no effect. Now it was their turn. Inevitably, I would end up either on the floor or five steps back, wondering why I had agreed to play. I saw Troy about a year ago and I should have asked him if he wanted to swap hits. When we took Robert to San Angelo to see the college and to look at the dorms, I thought he was so cool to be going off on his own.

Although I’m about to be 42 years old, my sister still refers to me as “my baby brother.” Martha and I spent countless hours entertaining one another. Robert was above whatever we were doing most of the time. We played in the water sprinkler. We made potion out of our mother’s powders, creams, and make-ups. We played outside in the snow together. We built forts made up of blankets and dining room chairs in the living room. We rode our bikes to Aunt Rose’s house and would listen to records. When we were smaller, we would lay out a blanket on the living room floor and take our Sunday afternoon nap. My dad had a record player and we had to settle to listening to The Imperials and a series of other Christian groups until Martha was old enough to start getting her own records; Donna Summer was one of her favorites. I remember the cover with Donna Summer sitting on top of a juke box. One enjoyment we had was putting on our socks and holding pinkies while we rubbed our feet back and forth on the carpet and then one of us would touch my dad’s Realistic stereo system. Sometimes, Robert couldn’t resist and he would join in on the fun.

Our neighborhood was full of kids but all it took was one of us to have a good idea and we were off and running. Martha had her own room and it was just up the short hallway from my room. You could see into the dining room and the kitchen from her bedroom door. One time, Martha thought she saw an angel in our kitchen at home. She says she knew it wasn’t a ghost because she wasn’t afraid. The best thing about Martha was hearing her relay whatever story she had. Sometimes, it was just the local middle school or high school drama but sometimes we got the special treat of having Martha re-tell the story of some movie that she got to go see. For some reason, Martha got invited to go to the movies in Odessa or Midland all the time. She would come home and would give me and my mother step by step details of everything that happened in the movie and we would sit there listening as if we were in the theatre. She should have been an actress with all the drama she put forth in re-telling these stories. One of the funniest stories Martha tends to tell is when she broke her arm in gymnastics. She came home from the hospital with a cast on and her eyes were still bloodshot from all the crying she had done. She went into the den and laid down on a big giant pillow that we used to watch tv with and I went and laid down next to her. My aunt Rose had gotten her a candy bar and in all sincerity, I looked over at her and said, “If you don’t feel like eating that candy bar, I’ll eat it for you.” Needless to say, she looked at me in disgust and I made a quick exit.

Martha, her husband Bill, and Emma live about a mile and a half from my house and we get to see each other all the time. Like I said, Robert lives 8 hours away with his wife Tressa and their two girls, Hannah and Sophie. I get to see Robert a couple times a year. I know I could sit down and think of a couple dozen more good stories. As I watch my children grow up and hear them fighting together and laughing together I know that they will be telling their own stories about the time Sarah and Isaiah did this and Allie did that. I look forward to hearing them remember their stories when they are grown and on their own.