A specific kind of bond

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.

10 thoughts on “A specific kind of bond

  1. I think what you say about the importance of relating to family in the later years is so true. Since we moved to Winnipeg in 2008 I have enjoyed relating to my four sisters, especially my youngest one who is 14 years younger than I am. Tomorrow we meet for book club here at my house. We’re going to talk about Ray Dirks’ book “Along the Road to Freedom” so we’ll be talking about family. I’m looking forward to it!

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  2. “They could relax into the unique comfort of having earliest influences and frame of reference in common.” this means a lot to me right now, as i’m reflecting on life at almost 65 and plan to celebrate this birthday with my siblings in far away Winnipeg (myself living in Paraguay!) … and it’s true, that you feel the bond to your siblings growing at this later stage, also motivated by dealing with an aging and then dying mother as siblings.

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  3. Thank you Dora for highlighting this! I feel special, and am happy too to have a sister close by to me after a very long time of living in BC as the only one from my family! And I agree it would be nice every so often to connect with our spread apart family to share more stories again! Our home is always open!:)

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  4. Love your title, Dora. “A specific kind of bond” — as well as the wisdom involving siblings which follows. Presently, all ten of my siblings, ranging in age from sixty to eighty, are still alive but a couple are ailing. Plus we live in four different provinces–spread out in cities from Vancouver Island to Waterloo. That means that family gatherings are rare & getting rarer. So it’s important to cherish those that do happen, even if only half of us can make it at a given time. Email has helped us keep in touch. Recently, my oldest brother typed out (with one finger!) a long-ago handwritten letter, which resulted in quite an amazing gathering of memories as many of us responded.

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