Two Sunday mornings ago I was feeling lonely with a specific kind of loneliness, so I texted my sister in Abbotsford, about an hour away, to see if she and her husband could join us for church and lunch. Happily, it suited, and we enjoyed some good hours together. After years with no siblings nearby, it’s wonderful to now have one (of my three sisters and four brothers) within driving reach.
Atul Gawande in Being Mortal notes that priorities “change markedly” in the latter half of adulthood — common enough knowledge, really — and whereas young people generally prefer meeting new people to spending time with a sibling, the opposite is true for olders. Another study says that sibling rivalry lessens over time and most people over 60 have close ties with their siblings.
Perhaps it’s because striving outward also eventually lessens, the work of separating from family of origin (necessary in youth) long done. My mother and her sisters, who as seniors ended up living in the same city, often met for breakfast. They sometimes tangled over versions of their shared childhoods or were grumpy with each other, but their bond was strong. They could relax into the unique comfort of having earliest influences and frame of reference in common.
My Abbotsford sister and I are 13 years apart so were never really sibling rivals. We now compare the first and later editions of our parents’ parenting. I love her, and the rest of them, and I’m at the point where I would gladly interact more frequently. In fact, if I had a genie in a bottle at my command, I would get the eight of us and partners together for regular breakfasts, even if just to bicker about the past.