Their Similarities Are Different

Shallow End of the Gene Pool?
Shallow End of the Gene Pool?

Some people need no introduction. Lorie Sheffer is becoming that kind of person here:

I’ve been watching two brothers reconnect through shared grief and loss. They never had a fight or exchanged nasty words; they just seemed to drift in totally opposite directions, an undercurrent of family tension pulling them away from one another. Never having many common interests to tie them, they were content to lead their lives without one another. Now they are automatically reassuming the roles of big brother/little brother. It is fascinating to see. I’m rooting for a lasting reunion.

My own brother and I are total opposites. We don’t even look like we came from the same gene pool. Old family photos of us as very young children show him as being protective of me, holding my hand or always being within reach. He was a good big brother. He was allowed to yell at me or punch me in the arm, but others were not. Not too long ago, the prospect of losing him literally brought me to my knees.

My own two children are as opposite as my brother and me. Thanks to old VHS tapes, there is hilarious evidence of them chasing one another with the cardboard tubes from Christmas wrap, thunking sounds and screams captured on film. Teenaged Jennifer is on tape rolling her eyes in disgust at ten-year-old Ian’s every move. Now, whenever she is in crisis he is the first person she calls. They are one another’s cheerleaders.

As close as we may be to friends or spouses, there is something amazing about having another person who grew up in the same house and who was actually there to witness our childhood. Memories can fade, and sometimes we remember things the way we wanted them to be more than how they actually were. What I find especially interesting is how two people can share the same experience and walk away with a totally different take on what transpired. Two people can see the same movie, and afterward one says they loved it, the other says they hated it; both are telling the truth, and yet they have different opinions based upon their own perspective. The same can be said for recollection of family memories. I hated that trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It was the trip from Hell. My brother, on the other hand, found it to be one of the highlights of his youth.

I very strongly believe that if we listen with an open mind, we can learn a great deal about ourselves through our siblings. They were there through our formative years, sharing our environment. They may remember us with fondness or not. They may have a totally different view of our parents, or they may feel exactly the same as we do. Whatever the case, we can learn about our own feelings and thoughts and fears and dreams by listening to theirs.

It is so easy to slip back into those old roles when we get together with our brothers and sisters. Nothing will turn us into kids again like a family gathering. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not so pleasant. But whatever your relationship may be, understand that there is nobody else who actually shared your childhood the way they did. Having brothers and/or sisters allows us a peek into our childhoods that only children don’t have. What a shame if we don’t appreciate that chance to learn about ourselves.

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By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.