I am the youngest in my family, and there is a huge age gap with my siblings. The closest in age to me (five years) is my sister, L, and after that its more than a decade difference with my other siblings. With the three oldest siblings, its like we were from different generations. I have only a few vague memories of them living at home. They grew up in the 1970’s and I grew up in the 1980’s. We couldn’t really relate to each other.
But I do remember that my oldest sister, B, would try to protect me from the family dysfunction caused primarily by my two older brothers, one of whom was quite mentally ill and eventually killed himself. I remember her visiting from college and taking me places, buying me toys, etc. We had always been close like that, even though we didn’t have much time together. Our relationship was much more like mother and son than sister and brother.
Whereas L and I fought like cats and dogs much of the time. We often truly despised each other, but we also spent the most time with each other. Our relationship changed when she went away for college, we became closer and are close today. But as kids, she would beat me up on a regular basis. She was five years older, and for most of our childhood, much bigger than me, and she was a tomboy. She would also play rather mean practical jokes on me. Once, we watched a movie about Houdini, and she asked if I wanted to try an escape myself, which I agreed to enthusiastically. She then proceeded to tie my hands and feet behind me to the desk in my bedroom, and then left me there on the floor until my mother discovered me and set me free.
My oldest brother moved out of the house when I was very young, and we have always been strangers to each other to this day. My other brother and I also had a pretty distant relationship for similar reasons, although he still lived in the same town as me, so we would interact somewhat. We did bond for a time when I was in high school; this was when I started lifting weights, and he also started lifting weights around the same time. Then he started to get increasingly sick, and eventually killed himself when I was away at college.
Apparently I was quite a handful as a child. My mother used to tell stories of family vacations in which everyone else did fun things while she had to stay behind with me, because I was behaving badly. Strangely, a few years ago, I repeated some of these stories that I had heard so many times growing up, and she claimed I made them up! But of course, I didn’t.
My family has a collection of home movies that focus on all the kids, except for me. There are actually none of me. We rewatched these a few Christmases ago, when we converted them to DVD from the old film as a gift to my parents. We watched my dead brother as a small boy. My mother said she was sorry there were none of me, but I told her it was OK. I understood. I don’t think my conception was planned. My birth must have upset her life plans, setting them back by at least five years until I started school, and she went back to work. And I was the fifth child, and I imagine that by then it was enough already with the whole raising kids thing. And I misbehaved so much too. The videos would not have been good anyway.
My family isn’t the warmest of families, although we love each other in our own way. Yesterday was my first Father’s Day without my father, who died late last year. Since then, it has suddenly struck me that my family really only consisted of four people: my parents and my two older sisters. Now I was down to three, and it occurred to me that there will be a time when they will all be gone, and I will be living on without them, possibly for many years. My mother is quite old, my sister closest in age is not in good health, and my oldest sister is a dozen years older than me and not in the best of health either. But I exercise and try to eat right, and I might live to be quite old. These people had always been constants in my life, and in some ways, I never imagined that that would change until recently. Thinking about this makes me very sad.