A few weeks ago, I met a man whose views on family were so toxic that I have since attempted to purge my memory of our brief but jarring encounter. (Unfortunately, I’ve been largely unsuccessful.)
He was a friend of a friend, and as we dove headlong into ‘Jewish geography’ – an instinctual but clumsy attempt to put each other “in context” before the end of our first handshake – it was clear that he was about to detonate a dirty bomb of T.M.I.
As I explained that my entire immediate family lived in Bet Shemesh, including my sister and her battalion of bouncing boys (literally – they have a trampoline), he cut me off to let me know that he, too, had a sister.
“I don’t care too much for her, never did,” he grumbled. ”We didn’t get along as kids, and we don’t keep in touch now that we’re older. I don’t know why people glorify relationships with siblings. It’s just a painful waste of time.”
Stunned, I hurriedly excused myself from the conversation. I was dizzy with disbelief, and I was tripping all over my jaw, which had hit the ground a second earlier.
His views on siblings could not have been further from my own.
As a young boy, I idolized my older sister. As a grown man, I treasure the relationship I have developed with my “little sis” (she hasn’t grown in several decades).
She is my only sibling and the only other person on the planet who experienced life in our childhood home from my perspective, the only other person who truly understands our family dynamic. We share values and memories as unique as our DNA, and a responsibility to ensure the continuity of those values and the preservation of those memories for generations to come.
She is a friend-family hybrid that cannot be duplicated and must not be taken for granted. Ever.
And so, to celebrate our special bond, I have decided to write her a poem (her favorite vehicle for expression).
Here is my version of “Us” by Shel Silverstein (a longtime family favorite):
Me and her
Her and me,
We get along
I used to sit
Upon her knee
And cuddle close
To watch TV,
With her I felt safe,
Happy and free.
But she grew up
And moved away from me,
So very far
Across the sea.
Was sad, you see.
But we reunited
And are close as can be.
We visit and talk
I even see her
At the grocery.
It’s clearly a blessing
For us to be
Both kindred spirits and family.
Me and her
Her and me.
If you can’t remember the last time you told your siblings that you loved them, it may be time to pick up the phone to do so. While we can’t choose our siblings, we should take every opportunity to let ours know that we would have had we been given the choice.
And, who knows – they might even return the sentiment.
I love you, lil’ sis!