The last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about family and what it does and doesn’t mean. This is the second post reflecting on this journey.
Parents are the people that have an obligation to guide you through life. I can’t imagine any parent is capable of doing this perfectly but, most parents love their child to the best of their ability. Love is the most important part of guiding someone through life, isn’t it? To give an individual child a deeper sense of knowing he is loved, no matter what, by at least one person in the world, is the greatest gift a parent has to offer.
My siblings and I, for what it’s worth, did not have that. Instead, we had to earn our mother’s love and we always failed. We were never good enough, never smart enough, never quick enough, never kind enough, never…. enough. My biological mother had four children and she did not raise a single one of us. We were all separated at a pretty young age and forced to find our own way in this world.
Yet, somehow, we overcame.
We overcame all the insults the world hurled at us: rejection from family after family, abusive relationships, homelessness, joblessness, and more. Today my siblings are all quite successful and I couldn’t be more proud.
My sister is a single mom of twins. She owns her own home and her children are beautiful and absolutely know they are loved. I am blown away by the woman and mother that she has become. She might not “look” like your typical success story and she may not fit the canonical definition for any category, but she is beautiful and brilliant. She loves to learn and goes to the library regularly to teach herself math and physics. Her energy and tenacity to continue going, despite whatever challenge is hurled her way, is unmatched. I deeply admire my sister and I am so very grateful that we have a shared bond that goes beyond our DNA.
Then there’s Andrew. Without a college degree he taught himself software security and quickly became an expert in his field. He now has a job that he enjoys and is about to close on the purchase of his first home. A couple of weekends ago he drove up with his new girlfriend so I could meet her. She seems quite lovely. The last time he brought a woman for me to meet, they ended up married. I feel so very lucky that we have continued our relationship through the years and I’m excited to see how life turns out for him as he continues on his path.
Then there’s my brother Billy, the law student. Others call him William or Will or Bill but, to me, he will always be silly Billy. I love that our relationship is such that even Hannah can call him silly Uncle Billy and it’s taken by him as a sign of affection. Billy and I can one-up each other and just laugh, and laugh, and laugh or we can sit together quietly and just be. This year Billy finished his second year of law school. He wants to be a public defender and work hard for people that have no one else. He is constantly challenging himself to be a better person and to make the world a better place, even if it’s just by making one person smile or laugh.
It is incredible that not only have we all managed to overcome our own battles, we have all stayed in touch. Even though we did not grow up together and may go months (or longer) without talking to one another, we know we always have each another.
I am so incredibly proud of my siblings. I am proud of all that they overcame and have become. I proud of the lives they have built for themselves without help from anyone and with significant forces fighting against them the entire way. I am excited to see where their lives will go. Even though I know the future will still hold significant ups-and downs I also know they are incredible people that have a lot to offer the world. I am incredibly proud of them and I consider myself lucky to be their sister.
Unlike my last post, this reflection on family is not about acceptance or belonging. In many ways my siblings and I don’t know if we are or ever will be fully accepted by each other. And, while acceptance and belonging are significant aspects of family, they are not everything. Family is also about shared experience and a deeper knowing and understanding of an individual that results. My sister and brothers do not have to like me or each other but we will always, always have parts of our lives that only we can understand. We will uniquely know what it means to overcome and to not just survive but to thrive. That is what it means to be a sibling. That is family.
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I did not write about all of my siblings here. I also have another brother — Brian — but he grew up with my father. He’s in his 20s now and I’ve only seen him a few times over the years. He is still writing his life story and has his own challenges to overcome. I imagine in time, he too will have a similar story to the rest of us and I hope he will join our sibling circle. I also have two step brothers and many foster sister and brothers. They are all beautiful and wonderful and may appear in future posts.