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The Relationship of a Lifetime
Lillian S. Hawthorne

Who is the person you’ve known the longest? Many of you will answer “my sister” or “my brother.” So when was the last time you talked to your sibling?

People often lose touch with brothers and sisters over the years. Sometimes circumstances lead to a drifting apart. Other times, people unknowingly let childhood issues interfere in their adult sibling relationships. However, you can choose to reenter your siblings’ lives and enjoy the benefits of those relationships today.

Take the story of two sisters, Polly and Jonie, who are now in their 70’s. They spent many years apart—until they finally connected in their later years.

Polly was a sickly child and suffered a severe infection when she was six. At the same time, her mother disappeared from home for several days and then reappeared with a blanket-wrapped bundle named Jonie. The new baby hardly ever cried and constantly received approving attention.

Polly was terrified. Had her mother left to punish her for being sick? Was the new baby a healthy replacement for her? Right then she decided she would no longer need any special care from anyone.

Jonie remembers those early times differently. “You were my big sister,” she tells Polly. “I wanted to be like you and follow you around. But you wouldn’t let me. I didn’t know what I did wrong.” Polly responds quietly, “It wasn’t really anything you did, probably just that you were there.”

Polly married after high school, and since it was World War II, she followed her husband to different army camps. After the war, her husband worked at numerous jobs in places far away from Polly’s family. Their only child, a daughter, was born during this time.

Meanwhile, Jonie married, had her own children, but continued to live right near her parents. Despite her family’s many invitations, Polly rarely visited them, claiming she was usually too far away or too busy to go. Polly did return home briefly when her parents died. She remembers feeling like a stranger at both funerals because most people there knew her sister, not her.

Things changed a few years ago when Polly’s husband suffered a series of mild but escalating heart attacks. Their daughter urged her parents to move closer to her, which they did reluctantly, insisting that it was mostly to spare their daughter the long distance visits.

Polly surprisingly chose to relocate to a place that was equidistant from her daughter and her sister. Jonie expresses pleasure about the new arrangement, although she regrets the health problems that made it necessary. “Now we can be together more. It’s just too bad that it took us such a long time to be together like this.”

Polly answers softly, “Maybe we just needed such a long time to find where we really wanted to be.”

What finally brought these two sisters together, both literally and figuratively, in their later years?

Perhaps it was being with each other again that helped them realize that they were no longer children at the mercy of childhood perceptions but adults with greater perspective. Perhaps since there were fewer people and less time in their lives now, whoever and whatever remained became more precious.

Siblings are the last remaining members of our family of origin. Our siblings not only offer us the opportunity to reminisce about our shared family experiences, but they can also be a source of support and a friendly companion with whom we can share new adventures. Take the time now to reconnect with your sisters and brothers. The benefits are limitless.

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