Understanding  Families

Those who know me will also know that, although I have half brothers and lived a few years of my live with cousins who are important to me, I have little real experience of living in a family with brothers and sisters. Siblings are a blank slate. So when I see them, as adults, together behaving towards one another as they have done for their whole lives based on the closeness that they experienced as children, I am both amused and enamoured. Amused because it’s quite funny to see adults behaving towards one another in their time honoured and child centred emotional ways and enamoured because of its demonstration of our humanity.

I see it when my wife meets her brothers and they interact occupying a physical space together that is a manifestation of their emotional closeness. I also have that with Gaynor and my children but with no other adults and it’s the “other adults” bit here that we are talking about. My children, after all, just like other children, have no choice as to who their parents are. My wife and I, however, have chosen to be together and I love that bond between us. As I keep telling people, we’re both happy with the thought that we’ve found someone else with whom we will stride into the future. As someone who has never before had that feeling towards another, biologically unrelated, adult, you can’t imagine how good that feels. I do have to admit, though, that my wife and my eldest daughter do have conversations as to who in the family will be lumbered with me when I really am senile. It seems that my son, Matt, has drawn the short straw.

Well, this weekend, Claire, one of Gaynor’s cousins, had her 60th birthday party in a lovely house in the Lake District. Claire is one of five, three of them her other sisters, and they were all there, apart from their brother who lives in the US. What was fascinating was to see the interaction between them.  Gillian is Willie, Claire is Pie. They finish one another’s sentences. They laugh at shared jokes and circumstances that none of the rest of us are privy to, although we, too, laugh at the humour of the situation. The boyfriend that they can all now acknowledge was a walking disaster.

I hope that she won’t mind me mentioning this, but these childhood circumstances and the roles were highlighted for me when we went out for a long Sunday morning walk together. Very near the end someone pointed out to Willie that we could get home quicker by a slightly different route. The response was “Sorry, your leader has taken a wrong turn”. To my ear it sounded as though that was being said by a fifteen year old to her sisters. It was a lovely moment that encapsulated what I can never experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like being a loner, it’s what I am. I love my family deeply but also like to plough my own furrow. That ploughing, however, tends to exclude anyone else in its application. I also feel that I don’t need brothers and sisters. I do know, however, how important my relationship to Mike and Rosemary, my cousins, is. Yet it can never be as close as their own relationship is to one another. Fully understanding these relationships is something I don’t think that I can ever do. Witnessing them is joyous.

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