A Little About My Family…
It’s no secret that I’m not close with my family. Their lack of presence in my life is obvious every time I’m around a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend’s family. I see the way people grow together, as a unit of strength and love and loyalty, and wonder what went wrong in between my mom, dad, brother, and I. Some families have tragic reasons why they are not close. But my family, we just don’t fit. We all are strangers, bound by blood.
This doesn’t bother me so much when it comes to my parents. My mom is the only person in the family I communicate with in an honest and consistent manner, and I have accepted her as my sole source of familial warmth. My teen years were spent aching for a close relationship with my dad, and realizing that no matter how hard I tried, we are just too different to be close. And then there’s my brother.
My brother is a painful topic for me. When I was a kid, he was my idol. I followed his lead in toys, sports, music, video games….anything he did I did too, in order to impress him and prove that I was worthy enough to be his equal. But being a little sister, I was born to be inferior, annoying, and ultimately uninteresting to him. So as he reached ten and eleven, and I reached eight and nine we went our separate ways. This progressed rapidly as we aged. I had more bookish tendencies, was quiet, reserved, creative. He was also reserved, but sulky as opposed to my ‘sad’. He was practical; he learned about mechanics, hunting, woodworking. We were growing more different by the day.
We even seemed opposite in appearance. He had our mother’s blue eyes and fair skin, he was tall, his hair was lighter with only the slightest hint of wave. I was short, with a darker complexion and dark eyes and hair, which was a wild mess of curls and waves. I wore glasses, he had perfect eyesight. He never got sick, I had asthma, eczema, and several bouts of pneumonia during childhood. But we weren’t all difference. He didn’t like sports either, wasn’t extremely social, had the same body type, and was also isolated from our parents. But he was beginning to be a teenager, and I was still a kid, fearful of his disapproval, so I kept my distance.
When I reached high school I think he began to notice how grown up I had become. He was friendlier, but still maintained his distance. I maintained mine too, because I no longer knew what to say to him. We were so different, with different dreams and pursuits and personalities…it seemed hopeless. “Just wait,” my mom kept telling me, “you two will become closer as you both reach adulthood.” So I waited, and waited. The more time passed, the harder it was to reach out to him. I went off to college and he stayed at home, and our lives became a mystery to another. Someone recently asked how he was doing. Realizing I couldn’t remember the last time I had spoken to him (despite seeing each other in person at least once in the past month), I reiterated the things my mom always told me about him. He worked, he went to school, he had a girlfriend. I couldn’t even tell you what his favorite band is, what he does for fun, or what exactly he’s studying in school. He is a stranger.
This realization always hits me hard. The person I am biologically the closest to is a stranger. My only sibling knows less about me than just about everyone else in my life. Most of the time I have trouble even saying “hi” to him. But I wish it wasn’t so hard…I wish we knew what to say to each other. I recognized an anger in him that I have in myself, only he lashes out, and I let it burn inside. We both are strong-willed, stubborn, and private. He never talks about his feelings, and neither do I, but he is different because he shares his opinions. He can manage small talk, I just avoid people. He is critical, I am open-minded. We are strangers, made of the same stuff, but chose different paths. One thing we both genetically share is depression, but he will never talk about that, and I will never be brave enough to ask him. I only know because my mom found the pill bottle in his room.
The sad part is, I don’t really miss him anymore. I don’t even know him, so there’s nothing really to miss. There’s just the shadow of old memories, which are so long ago that they might as well have been a dream. Similarly, my dad and I were never close, so I have trouble missing him, too. My mom is the only exception; I miss her always, but do nothing about it.
I’m scared that I will follow in the footsteps of my family. That I won’t know what to say, that I will hardly hug or touch my children, that I’ll look at my children one day and realize they are strangers to me, and to each other.
One pattern I’m beginning to see with my brother and I is our constant string of relationships. It’s like we both are trying to compensate the lack of affection and warmth from our childhood by putting all of our love into one person. I just hope he has better luck than I do, and that his relationships won’t burn out or spiral out of control…
But who am I kidding? If they did, I probably wouldn’t know, anyway.