Toward the end of the day on Sunday – after WD and I went to the museum, and after met the girls for dinner at a restaurant that just opened in Boston that we loved when we were in NYC — I logged onto Facebook. I scrolled through the ridiculous onslaught of music videos that so many people insist on posting — even when “music video” means “lyrics scrolling across the screen while the song plays” — and saw a few fun tidbits from friends and family. Including a post by my mother talking about how much fun she had celebrating her granddaughter’s second birthday.
Huh. Her granddaughter = my niece. ”Today’s her birthday?” I thought.
So what did I do? Did I pick up the phone? Nope. I posted on my brother’s and his wife’s facebook pages. Because no one has picked up the phone in so long, it didn’t seem feasible.
I think I’ll send her a gift, though.
And then I think “Why? He’s really NEVER gotten my kids gifts for their birthdays.”
But – does that matter?
On my commute home yesterday, I started to think about it a bit more. I struggled to remember when I last spoke with my parents. I couldn’t remember when I last spoke with my sister. And I thought, you know, I don’t like this.
In my family of origin, I am the oldest of 3 siblings. My sister is 2 years and 8 months younger than me, and my brother is 5 years and 9 months younger than me (I think I did that math right — I’d always said he’s 6 years younger, but why break out the months for my sister and not my brother?)
We grew up in a relatively rural part of New England. It was just rural enough that if we wanted to do get together with friends, our parents had to drive us. For some reason, for us, that meant we stayed home a lot. My brother, sister and I spent a LOT of time together. For a while when we were younger, my mother worked nights on the weekends, and she slept all day on Saturday and Sunday. My dad worked in the service industry, and he spent those days working. So it was just us kids …. all. day. long.
We fought a lot. But we also had a lot of fun. My sister and I especially had a pretty close relationship. Sometimes, that closeness resulted in cat fights and physical altercations … but most of my memories of my pre teen years involve my sister. Watching t.v. together after school, trying and botching taffy recipes, and stashing the wrecked remains in the woods, staying up until 2 a.m. during the summers playing spit and listening to Cyndi Lauper, etc.
As I may or may not have mentioned, when I was a pre-teen, my mother had a “religious awakening” of sorts. She had been raised Russian Orthodox, then we had a blip of Congregationalism, but when I was 11, my mother became Born Again. My father eventually followed.
Today, my brother, sister and I all have chosen not to be a part of that religion. That choice meant different things for all of us, and the separation process from our parents’ religion took different forms. There was, as a result, a certain amount of separation from our parents, as well. We all three do what we can to stay close to them on the levels we are able, and I think I have been successful. We all three carry different levels of scars from the years where the religion shaped our home life.
Since we’re adults, us siblings ahve gone through various levels of closeness.
When I was a single mother, living in California, my sister left her husband. She and her then-2-year old son lived with me and my girls for a long time. We functioned like a married couple, an intact family. She cooked and took care of the house. I worked. If my kids were sick, she picked them up from school and helped them to feel better. We did things together on the weekends.
We were very, very close.
When it was clear that we needed space, she found an apartment across the street. The kids would run to visit her in their jammies and bare feet.
When I moved back east, we had tears. (Just like we did when I went to college.)
But since I’ve been back east, we’ve drifted. For a while, we stayed close through email. But that faded, too. Now she’ll occasionally text me. If something comes up, there’s no problem picking up the phone for a quick call. But I have no idea what her day-to-day life looks like. There are a few potential reasons for that, which are not blog fodder, but regardless, I really miss her.
My brother and I also have had our ups and downs of closeness. If hard pressed to say why we’re currently in a down, I would pin the blame on myself. We worked through some issues in the past couple of years, and he was doing a really good job of keeping in contact, calling frequently, checking in. But the timing of the calls was tough, and I wouldn’t pick up because I couldn’t have a conversation with him while sharing an office at work. And I wouldn’t call back quickly, because by the time our later dinner hour took place, I knew he was putting his small children to bed.
And now – tons of life is happening on both ends, and we’re not really talking much.
And I missed his daughter’s birthday.
Now I feel compelled to fix it.
I called my parents last night – although, really, I wasn’t very out of touch with them. My mom is a big chatter (i.e., instant messenger), and we often touch based through the computer and give updates. It isn’t a bad way to at least keep some level of contact. They visit us occasionally, and us them. We used to more, but my girls’ sports makes it difficult. Lemon has a crew race every weekend starting this Saturday. They take an entire day. It’s tough to do a 2 1/2 hour drive (each way) in one day.
So I am going to try – I am going to pick up the phone and check in with my brother – break through the potential icy start, until we get to place of more comfortable chatting. I will try and do the same with my opposite-coast sister. And see if I can’t make my actions match my priorities.
[This makes me a totally typical oldest child, doesn't it?]
[Also sad to realize I don't have my brother's phone number in my phone. Geez!! Where'd it go??]