Monday, July 23, 2007

I Am Charlie's Sister

Funny where one can take inspiration. I have been reading several blogs lately with a family theme. It got me thinking of my own family of origin. A couple of months ago, I wrote about my father, I write frequently of my son, occasionally of my husband. Now, it is my brother's turn.

My brother, Charlie, is 18 months younger than I, almost to the day. As is often the case in wartime, the child was conceived just before Dad was shipped overseas, and born before the end of his first tour of duty in the Vietnam war. His father's namesake, Charles was an absolutely adorable baby with a elfin face. Growing up, I was completely convinced that he was my mother's favorite, since he was both the baby of the family and a boy. In hindsight, I really don't think she had a favorite.

As far back in our childhood as I can remember, Charles was irritated with me for being the older sibling. His resentment was fueled by the fact I always had slightly more privileges than he did: I could stay up a little later, had a bigger allowance, etc. What he didn't realize was that I was also held more accountable both for my own behavior and his (since I was older, I set the example), and I always had a few more chores than he did. Charles always thought he'd catch up to me both in age and size. Since he is approaching 40, he is no longer as eager to surpass me in age. He had only to wait until his mid teens to surpass me in height. We fought bitterly, probably for dominance, and probably because each was convinced the other was favored.

Even in his very early years, that boy was always in trouble. He was a smart kid, but performed poorly in school. He was mischievous when he was very young, borderline criminal when he was older. Before he even hit his teens my mother had him sent to a boys correctional/group home facility. At the time, I was too young to fully understand the ramifications for him, me, or the rest of the family. All I knew was that my brother seemed to be the cause of a great deal of tension, and now he was going to not be there anymore. I have a much different understanding now, both as an adult and as a parent. It has haunted me for years.

Charles was always more courageous than I. Growing up in a strict household, my acts of defiance were quiet and small (a form of passive aggressive behavior I learned to perfect, and have been working to disavow). His acts were much more overt. I admired him for that, and I still do. He can confront things immediately and head on, that it takes me weeks to build up the stomach for. Until his early 30s, he thought nothing of pulling up stakes and moving on. When he was done with a place, either because there was no work for him, or he just became restless, he packed his car and went. I have 3 pages in my phone book with addresses for him in Texas, California, Colorado, Georgia and Arkansas!

Charles has since settled down. He has been married for about 10 years, and has 3 kids of his own. His eldest daughter looks just like him! Charles named her for me, an honor that I will never fully deserve.

While we stay in touch, it can be a little strained. Our frames of reference are out of kilter all together. Our family history isn't really a shared one, since he was out of the house basically since he was 9 or 10, with only brief intervals of being home. We both grew up as de facto only children in parallel universes, it seemed, his universe being a type of bizarro world. He never blamed me for it, and it wasn't my fault. Neither of us had much control over the situation. But I think we both learned a great deal from it.

r.

18 comments:

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

This is such a great idea for a post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Found you through Travelin' Oma. I'll be back!

eastcoastdweller said...

It is truly amazing how different siblings can be from each other. I'm a struggling writer; brother 1 is a military hot shot; sister teaches; and brother 2 works in a faraway city.

And in every possible way, we are different.

JYankee said...

how true that is...my brother and i...13 years apart...he is a lawyer in so cal..me..running around loose in japan! who'd thought we were from the same family???

rp said...

Hi, Stie. Thanks for visiting. I love reading Oma's blog. I will stop by your site soon. I think I will cover the rest of my gang as time goes on.

EastCoast, yes, the differences in some siblings is just fascinating. One sister in law of mine is a cop, the other a teacher. Completely different women, also close in age.

Hi, Yankee. Wow. But in your case somewhat understandable. With 13 years between you two, you almost had different parents. Same with my husband and his sisters--He is 10 years their senior, and was an only child all that time.

Susan Reynolds said...

I love your writing and am so pleased to have wandered here from twitter. And to think that some people say that social media is a waste of time. Ha!

Alice Kildaire said...

I really enjoyed reading that, thanks so much for sharing!

eastcoastdweller said...

"You almost had different parents."

You know, that's one key to it, I think. Very profound. The reed-thin young airman who had just given up a life of biking and partying to be a husband and father in 1970-something, was certainly a different person than the man a decade down the road who sired my youngest brother.

rp said...

eastcoast, that is the case with my my brother and i and Dad's second set of kids. My father was a completely different person at that point.

I also think that is the difference between parents and grandparents. Time teaches us much, and makes us so much more indulgent of our children's children.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Good post RP. It is one of those posts that make me stop and think about my own "world" and my sister's... and our parents.

Rebecca said...

Thank you, Mother Hen. I often think about the family from whence I came, and the one I created. How those worlds collide or mesh. What I'll keep, and what I won't.

David said...

It's amazing how kids can grow up to be entirely different people. Kind of makes the whole genetics thing seem like a bunch of hogwash.

Rebecca said...

Oh, yes, the old nature vs. nurture argument. I gotta say, I think it is 50/50. And situational besides.

SOUL: said...

hey girl...
this was a great read. great writing too.

I Love the way you put this..in the comment section:

"I often think about the family from whence I came, and the one I created. How those worlds collide or mesh. What I'll keep, and what I won't."

very well stated. i have had that phrase stuck in my head for years...with no words to let it out... that's the words.

thanks for writing this.

Epimenides said...

I've got a sister 3 years my elder. We used to fight a lot as kids, but now would destroy anyone who would try to come between us! We may be different characters but as they say in Greece "Blood doesn't turn to water"!
Nice post rp. Thanks! :)

insanity-suits-me (Dawn) said...

what an interesting post... there were 8 kids in our family but the older ones were moving out by the time the last couple were born... so we never lived under the same roof all at the same time.
Today...well some of us tolerate each other and some of us are close.. but no family is perfect.
Thanks for the read!

Random Magus said...

My brother and I are only 4 years apart in age but it's like we have really nothing in common - if he was not my brother and just any other person we would never be even friends... it's really strange these blood ties and their lure

Loz said...

Hi Rebecca it was my youngest sister who was the master of defiance probably because her older siblings were able to pave the way and force some mellowing by our parents. I enjoyed the post

Rebecca said...

Thank you, Soul!

Epi, Lord help the person who messes with my brother or with me. We'd each probably kill for the other. My baby bro even felt the need to vet my husband!!

Hi, Dawn. Thanks for stopping by. My dad was the youngest of 10 kids. His memories of his parents differ greatly from those higher in the birth order, that is for sure!!

Random, my mother and I are like that. If we weren't related, we'd have no cause to know one anther at all. Like and love are very different things...

Hi, Loz. It is a tough job breaking parents in, I can tell you that! So can my son :)