Friday, December 14, 2007

They came running...

Historically, I've not been extraordinarily close to my siblings. My older sister and brother were part of the deal when my mom married my dad. They were 8 and 5 when I was born. The next year brought my baby brother. The two years following brought one teenage uncle and then another. We were a whirlwind of children packed in a trailer house with a Mom just barely an adult herself and a Dad who worked nonstop to keep the lights on.

My parents divorced when I was about Gracie's age. My older brother and sister stayed with Daddy, while Dustin and I went with Mom. He and I were close as there were many days all we had was the other. My parents had a difficult time seeing beyond themselves to provide for us. My Mom worked a lot to care for us, but she also cared for her non-working alcoholic husband and just about anyone else who had a need. My Dad wouldn't pay child support regularly or appropriately so he could teach my Mom a lesson, but in the meantime, my brother and I did without. Everybody meant well, but they meant well for themselves.

Both of my older siblings married and began their own families, and my younger brother was in a juvenile detention center, all before I was in High School. While I was in High School, my Mom suffered a head injury. Instead of bringing home a paycheck that nearly made ends meet, she brought home a measly worker's compensation stipend on which no one could survive. Dad was still teaching those lessons, and we literally had no money, so I worked nearly full-time between AP courses in school and the homework that comes with that kind of course load to pay for a place to live.

In the midst of my parent's bickering and spatting, and all of our respective crazy lives, we siblings just grew apart. We weren't fighting with one another, but there were no reasonable adults to encourage us to nurture relationships with each other.

As we all progressed with life, our relationships went through various stages. My sister and I vascilated between being close and being distant. Eight years separated us, and we were in vastly different life stages simultaneously. My brothers went through relationships, jobs, good times, and bad, and sisters didn't fit into that mix. My life was hectic too, as I went to school, moved to Europe, worked odd hours.

I had many friends who were very close to their siblings, some even living with them as adults. When I would mention my siblings to friends I'd had for a time, I would leave them stunned. People who thought they knew everything about me may have only known about one sibling or another, but rarely all three. Again, it wasn't because we didn't love one another, we did -- there were just few opportunities for us to flow into and out of one another's lives, and unless you're on a date, people just don't ask, "So, how many brothers and sisters?"

For the most part, my relationship with my siblings consisted of a Holiday Hey-How-Are-Ya before we all went our own way once again. When James and I began having children, that all seemed to change. My sister was consistently in and out, but strangely, my older brother started dropping in unannounced. From Missouri. He would come by to hang out and play with the kids, who by the way, love their "Unco Wuss-O" (Uncle Russell in Baby Gracie speak). Around that same time, my younger brother got his life together, got married, and had a daughter of his own, and he's been a staple in my kids' life ever since. The sibling relationships that have developed over the last few years truly surprise me over and over.

In April, as my pregnancy with Zachary was ending and we knew he would die, James began sending out e-mail updates from the hospital. My siblings were on that e-mail list, and I honestly anticipated no more than a call a few days later, or a card at the very best. So much of that whole experience is a blur, but I remember making sure someone knew to call Russell. I knew Mom would call my younger brother Dustin and my sister Christy, and I didn't want Russell to be left out. After I got home, someone told me they were all coming. Russell would drive from Missouri to Oklahoma to pick up Christy and Dustin and bring them to Texas. They came running to me. They wouldn't let me suffer alone. Even today, eight months later, Russell sent an e-mail to encourage my heart.

Siblings at My Side
(Front L-R: Dustin, Christy, Russell Hugging Me)

I know I mentioned my excitement that they're all coming for Christmas. I remember how fun Christmas was when our parents were married, which is what I anticipate this Christmas to be. Now, I know I won't suddenly be five again. I know we won't be peering out the window together watching for a blinking red nose, and the first person who begins caroling will likely be teased until their dying day, but to have them here is like coming full circle. It's like all of Mom and Daddy's junk doesn't matter anymore. The age differences, the life circumstances, the vast span between our paths -- all of that is irrelevant. We're coming together to as brothers and sisters, as a family, to celebrate Christ, and that makes my heart glad.


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