Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Do We Reconnect with Family?

     My older sister came to visit for a few days. She's six years older than I am. As children, we slept in bedrooms right across the hall from each other, but we barely knew each other. Yet, somehow, now that we're older and live a thousand miles apart, we've become closer.

     When we were growing up, well, frankly, she didn't have much to do with me. She had her own friends and her own interests. By the time I got to elementary school, she was already in junior high school. By the time I got to high school, she had gone off to college.

     She tells me she used to babysit for me and my other sister (and by her account, we were both a pain in the neck!), but I don't remember that. I just remember her as this older girl with long dark hair and a big white smile, who loved Joan Baez and thought she was a Beatnik (even though we grew up in a lily white suburb).

     Our family of six usually did have dinner together -- the one time of day when everyone got together. But even then, she sat across the table, and down one. We never talked directly to each other, one on one. We never played together; never did anything together except on the rare occasion of a family outing -- which usually meant driving up to my grandmother's house for a holiday.

     By the time I graduated from high school, my sister was living in a New York City tenement and working and going to graduate school. Then she got married and moved to Virginia, then Tennessee. She got divorced and moved to Florida, where she eventually remarried and where she's now been living for the past 30 years. During this period, I'd see her about once every two or three years, for Christmas or a birthday at our parents' house.

     My parents eventually retired to Florida. I would occasionally go down to visit them, but still I hardly ever saw my sister. She lived in northern Florida; my folks had moved to South Florida; and we rarely visited my parents at the same time.

     My mom died in 2000. My dad was all alone, and before long he got sick. Coincidentally, about that same time, I was laid off from my job. So I now had time to go visit my dad in Florida and help him out. Every time I went to see him, my sister and her husband were there, taking care of his affairs, arranging medical tests and office visits, offering support and comfort. While I was there, my dad worried that he was a burden on us, didn't want to be a big problem in our lives. He insisted my sister take a break and go shopping; he arranged for my brother-in-law and I go play golf together.

     My dad was 90 by then, and he didn't last long. But during those few months, I spent more time with my sister than I had in all the time growing up as a child. I'd barely met her first husband, but spent a fair amount of time with her second husband. Later, when I drove down to Florida to help dispose of my parents' effects, and cart home a few family mementos, I stayed overnight with my sister on the way to my parents' house, and then again on the way home.

My older sister, in the middle, circa 1962
     After I left fulltime work, I started going down to Florida for a couple of weeks in the winter. I'd stay with my sister for a few nights. We'd go out to dinner, walk the beach, talk about our family, and her husband and I would play golf. She in turn began to make summer trips up north. She's stayed at our house a couple of times; and once, she came to visit for a few days when we rented a place on Cape Cod.

     In short, we've become the friends as older adults that we never were as children. Recently, she even friended me on Facebook!

     I wouldn't say we're close; she still lives a thousand miles away and has her own life, as I have mine. But it's nice to reconnect with your family, after all these years.

     And I wonder, is this typical, have others had the same experience . . . of losing touch, then reconnecting? 

10 comments:

Olga said...

I have three siblings and we were all born in a five year period. We all get along, but do have very separate lives.
A five year space--practically different generations.
Mike was fifteen when the last of his four siblings was born and his baby brother didn't even know they were related for the longest time.
His sister is 12 years younger and they really did not grow up together, but they have gotten very close in the past dozen years or so. ice to see.

rosaria williams said...

Very typical! You're lucky to have succeeded at reconnecting; some never do.

Janette said...

My husband's family has reconnected since his mother passed. Two years between brothers and then the sister eight years younger. We find ourselves laughing and playing on vacation together. Very different then their stark upbringing.
My family, not so much until mom passes. Too much vying for inheritance favors. Hopefully it will work out later.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

You're making me think Tom, I have a younger brother somewhere. His name is Mike and if he's alive he is 65. I am in touch with his three kids by his EXwife, but not him. So sad, but sometimes we lose touch. How nice that you did not. Dianne

Stephen Hayes said...

I haven't spoken with my brother in ten years, nor has he spoken with our parents. I've reached out to him but he won't say why he wants nothing to do with us. He's ridiculously rich and we're not; I wonder if that has anything to do with it. As far as i know, no one in the family has ever asked him for money.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I think that's more typical than not. My sister is ten years younger than I am and we are closer at this stage -- she is 57 and I am 67 -- than we ever have been. I really enjoy spending time with her. But I wouldn't say we're close. We have very different lives and she lives 1500 miles away and isn't big on keeping in close touch. My brother, who is three years younger, and I have been close all our lives, but he went through a period in his forties when he didn't want much to do with the family -- working on growing up issues and the like. My husband went 22 years without speaking to his brother. They got back in touch recently and he's glad to have that connection again, though they're not close. His brother is a very different person and their differences will forever keep them at a distance.

Anonymous said...

My hubby the oldest of a second family of 9 children, his half sister is 17 years older, he never knew her much, his siblings are all in their own worlds, since his Mother passed, they never talk to one brother who actually lives with the youngest brother who is kind of developmentally delayed and we are the one family member who are kind, loving and in touch with the brother who in his mind ptsd never left vietnam even though he works a job and lives with his ptsd and was in a relationship for almost 26 years his wife as I saw it who had muscular dystrophy she died suddenly and he nearly went to pieces we only saw him at the dinner after his Mother died and was buried on a bitter cold night near christmas..I don't have anything to do with the criminals who are in my family, forbidding them to ever contact me they talked to me like crap and then asked for money when my only child was a baby...I told them to hit the road and never contact me, I do have a neice who is loud and kind of obnoxious who tries to see me but I just listen and never say anything...I think you should be kind and loving to your real family and if it is people who you call friends so be it..just because you are born into a family doesn't mean you have to be around them when you grow up I know I don't and I am just fine, in fact friends from my childhood are my family and not the biological sets of people I am related to!!!!!!!!!!!

Arkansas Patti said...

While my brother and I didn't really reconnect we learned to appreaciate each other only once we were grown. We really didn't like each other much as youngsters and fought constantly. Anytime I could blame Jim for something it was a red letter day.
Today, we are very close and while we live in different states, we talk all the time on the phone and visit regularily.

Linda Myers said...

My sister and I have become very close, but only since our mother died in 2008. We talk at least three times a week. I can't imagine being without her now.

#1Nana said...

My brother and I bickered constantly as children. We don't see each other often, but when we do it is such an easy relationship. We have so much shared history that our conversation is effortless.