Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sibling Revelry

There are few relationships more complex, more enduring than that of siblings.  If life is a play then we are the stars standing in the spotlight, center stage.  Suddenly, there's a new co-star stepping onto our stage and stealing the light.  No one asked if we wanted to share the stage and nobody had us take a screen test to see if we even had chemistry with the newcomer.  Just a "Here you go.  New cast member.  New script.  And no we don't care whether or not you like the direction this is going."  So we rearrange our ideas about the play and by the end of the first act there is a flow to it.  By the end of the second who can even remember what it was like before the cast expanded?

So it is with our siblings.  They are there when our story begins.  Those built in playmates our parents bequeth to us.  They are our best friend, staunchest supporter, arch enemy and person to point the finger at when things go wrong.  Usually, all in the same day.  If a friend snuck into your bedroom, wore your clothes without asking, snooped through your diary and stole your cds you would drop that friend quicker than you can say, "see ya".  Let a sibling commit those crimes and they will not only get away with it, years later you will give a speech at their wedding reception recounting the violations, causing you both to laugh hysterically over all those good times.  Your parents will sit there shaking their heads dumbfoundedly.  This is the mystery of siblings.
It's a mystery how there could be a person in your life through no choosing of your own, whom you have nothing in common with, wouldn't even be someone you would hang out with if not for your shared dna, and yet you don't hesitate to drop everything and come running when they call.  While you might stab them in the hand with a fork to prevent them from getting that last slice of pizza, you would hand over one of your kidneys to them without even giving it a second thought.  Our siblings are the ones that stand by our sides when we marry and then stick around after the reception to help clean up.  They are the first people you call when the parents annoy you, because only they can truly understand.  A sibling will drive miles to come take care of your dog when you are out of town, brave an icestorm to pick you up from work because your car broke down, babysit your kids all weekend for free and never once say, "you owe me".   Or, if they say it, they never really mean it. 

There are few people in our lives that can be counted on at all times, for anything.  A sibling is such a person.  It is a relationship that will outlive marriages, flourish though seperated by many miles and transcend time and understanding.  My own mother loves to tell the story of the "year of the forgotten birthday".  Her birthday started off without a single birthday greeting.  As the day progressed she expected to hear "happy birthday" every time the phone rang.  No such luck.  By the end of the day it had become clear to her that she had been forgotten.  Forgotten by her children, spouse and mother.  She was getting ready for bed when the ringing phone pierced the silence.  "Happy birthday!  Sorry I didn't get a chance to call earlier."  It was her sister.  The only one who remembered what everyone else forgot.

When the world moves on without you, it is a sibling that will meet you right where you are.  They know things about your past that you have forgotten.  They will sometimes make you wish your parents had practiced abstinence more often.  They will love you with a love that doesn't have to be earned, returned or appreciated.  It's there whether you want it or not.  If you're wise, you will never take it for granted.  But even if you do, that's okay.   The true mystery of siblings is how they are able to overlook just about anything and love through everything.

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