Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brothers and Sisters

Yes, I wrote a book about brothers and sisters. But that was years ago; since then, I've written another book that explored love and sex during World War II and the significant changes that war created in relationships between men and women.

Out of the blue, a reporter from the Toronto Star contacted me. She was writing a piece about siblings and exploring her premise that, as they age, Baby Boomers will take a closer look at their sibling connections. She'd found my book while researching the subject and wanted to talk.

I wasn't sure what I could add to her story; I'd been off the sibling stump for a long time. I was rusty. The note cards I'd used for book talks disappeared long ago. The talking points for the media - whether print or television - were a mere memory of another time when I was primed and ready to go.

But a funny thing happened. The minute I started to respond to the reporter's first question, I shifted into overdrive. The reasons for writing the book, the surprises along the way, the results of sibling research all came back to me like a pet who'd run far, far away and miraculously found its way back home.

I was in my mid-40s when I wrote Brothers&Sisters. In the intervening years, I've learned a thing or two but have not changed my mind a whit when it comes to the importance of our siblings and the many ways in which they impact our lives. I wrote a chapter about the illness and death of parents and how those seminal events impact siblings. When I wrote that material, I depended upon research and upon the stories of others. Now, I could revise that chapter from personal experience.

My brother, sister, and I have worked together as a well-oiled team in the care for my seriously ill mother. Normally, that charge falls to the oldest daughter in the family - often, on her shoulders alone. But it is my "baby" sister who is leading the charge here and who suggested to my parents that they relocate from Florida where they'd lived for years to a small college town in Ohio just ten minutes from her home. My sister works in hospice care, feels compelled to work with the dying, and is surrounded by a large support system for both her and my parents.

In truth, I was relieved when my sister made the offer and my parents accepted. I'm not blessed with a half dozen friends who would make it their business to help tend to my parents almost daily. I have a husband, a son living close by, and a job, albeit not full-time.

Before my parents moved to Ohio, my siblings and I took turns visiting them. After several back and forth trips by my sister and me, my brother arrived from France where he lives full time and stayed for a month. Whatever misgivings I'd had from the past melted away when I realized his strength, caring, sense of responsibility, and willingness to keep me in the loop daily. I told him as often as I could what a terrific job he was doing and how much I appreciated him.

I'm blessed to have two siblings who, despite childhood misunderstandings, have put all the baggage aside to care for my parents. I can't imagine what it would be like to be an only child or to have siblings who are unwilling or unable to participate in the end of a parent's life. No one has more shared memories than siblings; no one understands the family dynamics better than those who lived together under the same roof and who spent so much time together.

I don't know how well I communicated all of this to the lovely reporter from the Toronto Star. But talking to her reminded me of why I wrote the book in the first place: I knew that, despite all the emphasis on relationships between parents and children, the sibling connection was supremely influential. And the interview reminded me that once an author, always an author.

No comments: