From the August 2016 issue

The Beauty of Brothers (and Sisters)

A few weeks ago, my parents flew up from Florida for a visit. My dad hasn’t been feeling well lately, and it had us all thinking about how there is no guarantee of a tomorrow – for any of us.

With that in mind, I called my uncle and invited him up for a few days while they were visiting. The goal was for him to reconnect with my dad, his brother, after a 20-year estrangement.

My uncle accepted happily. He’d been talking to my dad on the phone lately, but they still had not seen each other since the ‘90s. I’m sure they were both a little nervous. I know I was.

I hoped there would be no tension. I hoped they’d enjoy the time they spent together. I hoped that all of the memories of their shared childhoods would flush out any lingering resentments they had over what divided them two decades ago. I hoped – and it paid off.

They sat out in my garden, laughing and reminiscing over the course of three days. There seemed to be no lull in their conversation. They shared a simple joy in talking about the people and events from their childhood with the only other person in the world who also remembered – and who could even fill in some holes that they’d long forgotten.

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That is the special bond of siblings – even after a 20-year absence. And it’s the inspiration of this month’s cover story.

I’m an only child, and I’m OK with that. Partly because I know so many people with siblings who aren’t close or who are estranged, like my dad was from his brother and my mother is from her brother. So, I’m fully aware that the dream sibling scenario I envision isn’t the reality for many, and wouldn’t necessarily be my story.

And yet I have a soft spot for the sibling relationship. It must be so nice to have someone who’s known you from the start and will be there with you through most of your life. What other relationship do we have that can rival that longevity and insight into the origin of ourselves? Not our spouses, and surely not our children – as much as we love them both. Which is why I’ve always thought it was such a shame that my parents weren’t closer with their brothers.

Of course, it’s complicated, like all relationships are. The sibling relationship in particular is fraught with tensions – competition to outdo each other, slights and insults, perceived injustices and all sorts of things that cause fractures, indifference and even animosity.

But my hope is our cover story, “Sibling Love,” will give you – parents – some tools to help your children form a bond that will survive long after you are gone. That, to me, is one of the most beautiful gifts you could give your kids, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that it’s one you impart to your children.

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