Life With Jack

By on June 15, 2012

“I’d phone my sister if I thought she’d pick up the phone,” a friend remarked recently. “We haven’t spoken for about 20 years.”

I was stunned. This is one of the nicest, most caring, relational guys I ever met. “What happened?” I asked.

“Nothing really. Just grew apart. We live far from one another, we have very different lives, and there’s not much to connect us.”

Wow. I walked away feeling sad, though I’m not sure why.

Relationship with adult siblings is an interesting thing. For many, it is among their most treasured gifts. For others, the relationship can be one of the most difficult in their lives. Some fight like kids, but the love runs deep – even if it is unexpressed. For others, they grow up and grow apart. But across the board, this is true: it is like any other relationship – it requires effort.

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people brothers and sisters. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition that people have to work on.”

That quote from Maya Angelou is appropriate – as it was the story of my life with my big brother, Jack.

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of his death and it made me think of our story. It’s worth sharing.

Jack was contented to be an only child – who wouldn’t be? He had the full attention and uninterrupted affection of our folks. There was no sharing required, no “give half to your sister.” He was his own man in a home where his parents thought he had hung the moon.

And then at age 16, our parents shared the horrifying news – he was going to have a little sister or brother. Not only was this an “apple cart upsetter” – it was mortifying. Proof that his folks were still “enjoying one another’s company”. Mother said he refused to walk with them once the pregnancy was obvious – always 10 steps ahead or 10 behind.

He was disgruntled about the baby paraphernalia that found its way into the house once I arrived – and years later, he told me that I made the most “god awful noises – usually in the middle of the night.” One more reason to resent a baby sister.

He went away to college when I was three – but truthfully, we hadn’t had much to chat about up till then. He was doing calculus and I was doing Captain Kangaroo. And he wasn’t the kind of adult who feigned interest in what a child was doing. But I idolized him and lived for his visits home. I was always mindful that I had this “piece” of me missing.

Not until I, too, was married, had children, and was on a professional path did we finally have things in common. It was impossible for him to believe that I was old enough to do any of those things, and we certainly made very different choices about how we did them. But still, it was a connection.

Jacks life changed dramatically when he found himself single at 40. He spent time looking inward, examining his life, his choices, himself. He needed to talk about it and he found a ready listener and friend in none other than his little sister. That was a turning point in our relationship.

From that point on, we were connected at the heart. We talked on the phone, exchanged cards and letters – and finally – the 16 years seemed more like 5 or 6. In a 2008 birthday card I wrote to him:

“We were not blessed with growing up together. But we are blessed with the chance to grow old together. I know it’s not a topic you are fond of, but I am so grateful to have this time in our lives together. You have always been my secret – the big brother my friends knew so little of. Always my hero – how I wanted your friendship! It was not to be for me as a child – maybe that’s why I am so grateful for our relationship now. Please don’t forget how much I treasure you.”

We did treasure the time. We holidayed and vacationed together. When he remarried, his wonderful Rosemary rounded out our foursome fun, along with my husband. Great times, memorable moments.

We worked together as our parents aged, and when it was time to say “good-bye” we did that as a team, too. It made an unbearable loss easier to endure.

A health crisis surface for my brother not long after we lost mom. Jack’s heart attack was another turning point in his life. And suddenly, the years between us surfaced again. I had always known I’d live well beyond his time. But I was simply not ready.

Christmas 2009 seemed ominous to me. I sensed it might be our last. I wrote one last letter to him – just to make sure that nothing was left unsaid.

The opening lines of that card were straightforward – as the last 30 years of our lives together had been:

“I love you more than I could ever tell you – in person or in writing. Suffice it to say I consider you one of the best gifts God ever gave to me. You have been a friend and a brother in a way that might not have been if we had “grown up” together. Instead, we found our relationship later in life, based on mutual interests, our willingness to learn from one another, and our determination not to allow differences political and spiritual to divide us – but instead to add to the “spice” of our relationship. And beyond that – I just really like you and enjoy your company. You are smart, funny and we look alike – what’s not to love?”

He passed with his dear Rosemary holding his hand on June 15, 2010.

I miss him so much. But boy, was I blessed. He was it for me – Turns out, my parents were right – he really was the guy who hung the moon.

My brother and I were very, very different. Politically we were miles apart, as we were geographically all of my adult life. We held different views on faith. I used to jokingly say that he was an atheist until his heart attack, when he moved up to agnostic. There was little to agree upon in so many areas of our life.

But I had relentlessly pursued relationship with him. Why? Because we were siblings, and I knew one day, our folks would be gone and our children grown, and we would need each other. That turned out to be absolutely true. It was the last 30 years of his life that were our best together and I will treasure them always.

“Our biggest regrets are not for the things we have done but for the things we haven’t done” ― Chad Michael Murray

Regret is relentless. Don’t let it be your story. Is there a brother or sister with whom you need to reconnect? Or one who just needs to hear that you care for them? Don’t delay – do it today. You will both be glad you did.

 

Originally posted on Family Matters.

About My Purpose Now

Deb is ‘wife’ to her high school sweetheart, mom to three incredible sons and Gigi to two perfect grandboys. She is a former Californian who now lives in the Dallas area. She is excited about the next stage of life and what God has for her now. An author, speaker, and executive coach, Deb travels extensively and is always seeking a quiet place to write. Read Deb at: http://mypurposenow.org

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Life With Jack