WRITING SHORT: 33/50

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[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.

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10 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 33/50

  1. A cardiologist, a professor, nieces, brothers, husbands, wives ex this and ex that, sisters et all not talking for years even decades.
    Dear oh, dear. How common is this? No, not common at all in the Oosterman clan. We fight have disagreements, bitch about each others partners but never talking…? We are from Holland.

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  2. Nina, not common in my immediate family. I love my sister! I love my first cousins. My grandmother was a controlling, opinionated, stubborn “German.” Years ago when I was 12 there was a falling out in the family because of her strong character. I wish I’d had more history with her when I was older. She was a talented organist, a successful businesswoman, and one of the first HAM operators in the state of Maine. She wrote letters to the governor advising him on state issues. A remarkable woman the family just couldn’t deal with. Christine

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  3. This is so sad; but it’s easy to see how a disagreement not swiftly resolved develops into ‘we’re not talking’ and decades of stand-off. Family members can be awkward and disagreeable. Just because we share genes, doesn’t mean we will always see eye-to-eye. But all these ‘non-speakers’ are losers. They’ve lost important connections with their heritage, their shared pasts and experiences, through their inability to get beyond whatever incident set the whole thing off. I bet most of them can’t even remember what that was.

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    • I agree, Julie. Especially as we get older, those important connections are too valuable to sacrifice over bygone tiffs. But not having such connections, who am I to speak? So I’m glad to hear I might be preaching to a choir.

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  4. We have a bit of that in my family but it’s not exactly the same. I have two brothers, one is 85 the other is 87. I will talk about the younger one all the time. We are very close and have always been despite the 16 year difference in our age. On the other hand our older brother married a woman who today would be diagnosed with bi-polar illness. She created a lot of chaos as I was growing up (but not about me, mostly around my mother). Eventually everyone seemed to agree that not getting together worked best. I won’t say that I don’t speak to my older brother (we never had a falling out) but I haven’t seen him in 20 years even though he lives 10 miles from me. The rest of the family gets along fine. Yes, we occasionally disagree (my brother’s political leanings are the worst) but we are truly friends. Funny thing is that my older brother’s kids do not see him either. They are a part of our lives and haven’t seen their parents for 20 years either. Family dynamics are weird.

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  5. In my experience, money, when there is some, is behind most family estrangements. Rich patriarch dies and the will favors one sibling. (Subsequent attempt to prove him of unsound mind when he signed!) Wealthy widower marries gold-digger 30 years younger and ends up leaving her major portion of his estate, yadda, yadda. One sibling (usually male) fritters away sizeable nest egg and threatens parent (usually female) into forking over large sums. Something like this is happening with my brother right now.

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    • That’s certainly one scenario. Another, which I mentioned, is dispute over care of a dying parent exacerbating to the breaking point rifts already there. But others seem inexplicable to outsiders. Toxic sibling rivalry? One of the players deemed “too difficult” for anyone else to deal with? I don’t know. I am sorry about the situation with your brother, though.

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