After his little brother Jeffrey died, Stephen became an only child again, which wasn’t in the blueprint of our family. Steve was in first grade when I was born, so there are about 6 ½ years between us. I don’t think he planned on having a sister either and I assume he would have liked another buddy to play with, but again, so many unplanned events brought us together as family. As most little sisters, I worshipped my big brother and tried to emulate him in every way. By the time I was old enough to have a sense of my self, he was mostly out the house. In fact, when I was 14, he brought home his wife-to-be, Marilyn, who was to become my sister-in-law and best friend. I remember feeling so upset that I would be losing my sibling to another girl, yet Stephen reminded me that he would always love me and that I would always be his sister. His words have stayed with me my entire life and I know he feels this way today.
Today, while we do not share many of the same interests (his are business, golf and sports and red wine while mine are teaching, reading and writing and white wine), we share our family history and our current families. We are as close as a brother and sister can be, with our age difference unimportant at this stage in our lives. We share the legacy of memories that define our family of origin and our personalities. My brother got to spend more time with my parents by virtue of his age, but I can remember no sibling rivalry between us even when I perceived that he was the favored child by our mother. I was relieved for him that he didn’t have to feel less than in this way. He was always loving and caring to our mother no matter what, a quality that I respect in him as a man and as a child. He is strong in areas that I am weak and I so respect the part of him that worries less about what people think than the part of me that still cares.
If I needed my brother, he would be on the next plane, which is really all I need to know. His children feel like my own and I would assume that mine feel like his. When my three boys were little, my husband and I asked Steve and Marilyn to be their guardians should anything happen to us. Of course they immediately agreed, but my brother in his joking way also added, “Just stay healthy, Barbara.” I knew what he meant and we both laughed. I guess that is one of the elements of our relationship that I love most. We don’t have to say much or even talk every day. I know how he feels without him telling me and I know how much he loves me and cares for me without such words.
My brother has given me his wife and his children, who I love so very much, but he has given me the gift of his friendship and devotion, which I am so fortunate to have. We are the only two people in the world who share memory banks that reflect our origins: family dinners, babysitters, vacations, grief, and joy.