Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 5 - My Siblings, Part 1

This could be a long and complicated post, so I'll direct you here to read about my siblings in a general sense.

I grew up the youngest of 10 children. Turns out, I actually have 15 siblings, but the other six don't really have a relationship with me (aside from Cyndee, but we've lost touch to some extent and I feel guilty about that). However you look at it, I am most definitely a youngest child (hello, Adler!).

There is a 23 year age difference between the oldest of my mother's children and myself. Growing up, it was never weird to me that half of my brothers and sisters were technically old enough to be my parents or that I had nieces and nephews who were around my age. It wasn't until I was in middle school that I realized my family was kind of unique. We're all very different, but we're all in New England and do see each other several times a year. There are obvious cliques, for lack of a better word, amongst my siblings, but I think that's bound to happen when there's a massive age difference and when there are so many people/different personalities. We really know how to rally as a family, though. Unfortunately, we've had a good deal of experience with this when it comes to death.

Here's the rundown on the 5 oldest, to some extent I'll most likely define my relationship to/with them in respect to my relationship with their children:

Eldest Sister is 58 and currently lives in Maine (though very near the NH border), where she runs a battered women's shelter. Because the majority of her life is consumed with sadness and drama and helping people solve their problems, she tries to live a drama free life. She subscribes to several Buddhist tenets and I don't think it would be going out on a limb to say that she considers herself a Buddhist for the most part. Eldest Sister has 3 children, the oldest of which are also boy/girl twins, who are 28 years older than Liam and Ella (I'm fond of calling both sets of twins "the book ends"). Her youngest was a surprise baby and he was born on Eldest Sister's birthday 26 years ago. He is one of the happiest people I've ever met. Seriously, nothing gets the kid down and just being around him is a joy. Eldest Sister has a very strong personality, but we get along well and she's funny as hell. Growing up, I spent a fair amount of time at her house playing with my niece and nephew and I have many fond childhood memories that include times at Eldest Sister's home.

Chuck, my eldest brother, died of pneumonia when I was 19. He was out at his cabin in California for a little time off and was intending to come back to New Hampshire. His death was a major shock to Mom, who has not gotten over it to this day. Growing up, he was sort of on the periphery of my life. He was around, but never in any great detail. I have good memories of him, and we did grow closer as I got older, but we weren't particularly close. He did have a lovely daughter, my God-daughter, Monty, who is growing into a strong young woman of whom I am very proud. Chuck would be 57 if he were alive today.

I think I've referred to my next brother as Boston on here way back in the day. Boston is 55 and the most financially successful among us. I don't make note of that to be gauche, but it is a significant fact about him. He lives a good life that he has worked extremely hard for. He, uh, lives in Boston in case you were wondering how I so cleverly assigned his moniker, but bought a lovely second home on the coast of Maine last year and spends nearly all of his free time there with his partner, my fabulous brother-in-law, Bello. He is the father of my eldest niece (who is nearly 3 years older than I); Boston became the default patriarch of the family when my father died; we aren't particularly close but we have a strong mutual respect for each other and I know he approves of how my life has taken shape. He and Bello love to entertain and you can almost always find a party of some sort going on at their house.

My sister, A, and I have a wonderful relationship. She is 20 years older than I, having turned 54 earlier this year. A is an amazing person and, growing up, was a second mother to me. When I was pregnant with Liam and Ella, is was pretty much a no-brainer for me that I would ask her to be their Godmother. And a fabulous Godmother she it. A has 4 children and has raised them to be pretty awesome individuals. Nurse, her oldest (only 10 months separates us), is a nurse practitioner. She and her partner, I, recently relocated back to Vermont, after years of living in Philadelphia. Growing up, Nurse and I were pretty much best friends. Nearly all of my childhood memories involve her to some extent. A's youngest son is the nephew who has been very sick for the past year and has nearly died a couple of times. Now that they have a diagnosis (a very rare condition that has hit him particularly hard), they've had a long haul to recovery (which, really, isn't so much a recovery as it is a "new normal"), that includes monthly (sometimes weekly) trips down from Northern Vermont to Boston for medical testing and evaluations. My nephew has lost all of his peripheral vision, as well as his hearing, as a result of the Susac's. The hearing loss has been particularly difficult for A and my nephew to bear, but he'll be getting cochlear implants late next year and he's very much looking forward to that, which is a good thing. A is one of those people who keeps everything to herself, oftentimes to her detriment. All of us, my sisters and I in particular, have inherited a deep personal strength from Mom, but A sometimes has too great of a burden and I would love to help ease it for her, but it takes A LOT for her to ask for help. A and I totally get each other, though, and it's one of my personal joys that we have such a great relationship. I love her dearly.

I've written about my brother Danny here and here. The grief of his death hasn't really lessened with time and now I'm struck by the fact that I'm older than Danny was when he died. It was such a crazy time in our lives, in the history of the disease (so much paranoia and fear), and then bam! it was done. Danny died with grace and dignity and my family made that possible. The experience of his dying and death has left such an indelible mark on my being that I can honestly say that it has permanently affected how I treat people and how I value life and the opportunities we're presented in our daily goings-on. I loved my brother and, though Mom kept me on the periphery of his care and because I was so young, I am honored to have been there to witness the gift that is unconditional love, support and care - from my mother and siblings towards Danny as he died, from our church community who fed us and looked out for Mom, and from Danny himself. He accepted the care and love that we gave to him and, to this day, remains a brilliant example of grace and humility. Unlike Chuck's death, 7 years after Danny's, Danny's death, though heart wrenchingly sad, was a relief. Of course, we didn't want him to go, but he didn't have to suffer anymore and we knew that he died on his terms. Mom finds great comfort in that. And so do I.

Phew! So...that's the scoop on my 5 oldest siblings. I'll post later about the other 4.

1 comment:

Lorraine said...

caught up on the first 5 :)