[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]
An only child, I wanted an older brother. Someone who would show me the ropes, protect me if necessary, later on have friends who might date me. Now I’m gender-neutral in my preference, with a slight inclination towards a sister, older or younger. Someone who’d remember our parents with me, remember our growing up together, the places we came from and the people we knew. Someone connected with my past.
So why would anyone discard what I wanted and never had? Why haven’t Bill’s second wife and her only brother talked for over thirty years? (She does stay in touch with one of his sons.) The two of them know; no one else does. Bill’s first wife didn’t speak to her sister, ten years her senior, for decades. When the sister died at 89, only Bill’s son by that wife and his grandson went to the funeral.
Two of Bill’s three nieces don’t talk to their sister. The brother-in-law of Bill’s sister’s husband cut off all contact with his own brother, who later died still unspoken to. One of Bill’s first cousins won’t talk to his sister.
Bill says it’s not just his relatives, and not just siblings. That must be true. My second husband’s two nieces fell out over their mother’s care when she was dying fifteen years ago. Since then they haven’t spoken. The only sister of one of my daughters-in-law not only refuses to speak with their father but to be in the same room with him. That’s not between siblings, I admit. But she wouldn’t attend her own sister’s wedding because her father — also the bride’s father — would be there. Neither bride nor father have any idea why.
How common is this? Among Bill’s former patients, a distinguished professor rejects his brother; a prominent cardiologist won’t speak to his. “Let me give you more examples,” says Bill. “No, no,” I reply. “I’m writing a short piece.”
Perhaps bitter differences over the care of a dying parent are understandable. But what are the other reasons? She’s too outspoken? He doesn’t carve the turkey right? I’d take that sibling in a heartbeat. Maybe someone with siblings of their own could enlighten me.