I’ve been thinking a lot about siblings these days. I only have one — a brother — though there were many times growing up when I thought there were six of him. The boy was a holy terror, sometimes without the holy.
I have the funniest memories of him growing up. Though he’s three years younger than I am, when he was around five or six, he used to beat me up. He did it because I’d never hit him back. Well, I woke up to that pretty quickly, and accidentally socked him one day. Guess what? My brother’s love of hitting his big sister suddenly faded.
My brother used to torture me with dessert. Like a normal person, I would eat my dessert immediately after the meal. Not my brother. He’d save his for later that night when I had none. Then he’d sit in front of me eating his, waiting for me to ask for a bite so he could deny me. I wish I could say I never asked, but I always did.
As we grew older, I seemed to get the upper hand on my little brother. My mom worked two jobs when we were kids, so when I was old enough, she gave me cooking chores. My first dish was fried chicken. How hard could it be? I’d seen my mother cook it often. So I fried this chicken. It looked golden brown on the outside but I wondered about the inside. I didn’t know but I knew how to find out. I served my good-looking chicken to my brother. As I watched him take his first bite and saw the streams of blood flowing out, I concluded the chicken wasn’t quite done yet. Guess what? I never had to cook again. Why? Because my brother refused to eat anything else I cooked. That bloody chicken ended it for him.
To be honest, I didn’t lose any sleep about not cooking. What kid wants to cook? What kid wants to do any chores around the house? Not me. I soon figured out how to evade all chores: pretend I was reading or doing homework. You see, my mom was a strong proponent of getting a good education. Unfortunately for my brother, he never figured this out so he did a LOT of chores. Sometimes I felt sorry for him and wanted to clue him in on my chore evasion strategy, but I couldn’t trust him not to tell mom. So I watched him cook (yes, he cooks), clean, and iron, while I pretended to study.
As we grew older, things got a bit more serious. I remember an incident that occurred when I was off at college and my brother was still home. He called me to share a secret about a problem he was facing. He made me promise not to tell our mother. Of course, I promised. Unfortunately, as soon as we hung up the phone, I dialed my mom and told her the secret. Now I love my brother, but there was no way I could keep that secret. To this day, I don’t remember what the secret was, I just remember feeling that it was too big for me too handle. It took my brother a while to get over this one and share another secret with me, but he did.
One of the dearest memories I have about my brother is the day I realized he’d become an adult with insights to help me with my problems. I remember pulling the phone away from my ear and looking it, while thinking, “When did my little brother become a man?” A very precious moment indeed.
I cherish my relationship with my brother, as you can probably tell from these stories. Because we live 13 hours apart, we don’t see each other often, but we talk several times a week. There’s a richness to our relationship because it has its ups and downs and because it seems to grow stronger and deeper through those ups and downs.
I like to read about relationships that remind me of me and my brother. I love to read about people caring for each other, through the good times and the bad. The bumps on the relationship road only make the relationship more cherished. I like to think that I’m a relationship writer.
My latest book, Up Pops the Devil, has two very different brother-sister relationships. There’s the relationship between the main character, Preacher Winters, and his sister, Loretta. Though they spent much of their childhood in separate foster homes, their sibling bond remained strong. As adults, they became partners in an illegal business activity. Their relationship and their love is challenged when Preacher decides to get on the straight-and-narrow and leave the illegal activities behind.
The other sibling relationship in Up Pops the Devil is between Barnard Jenkins and his sister, Natalie. Barnard and Natalie’s sibling bond is more like mine and my brother’s. They tell each other hard truths that sometimes lead to uneasy moments between them. You know the moments I’m talking about when your sibling says something you need to hear, but you don’t want to hear it at that particular time.
Siblings. Mine’s a keeper. I hope you know yours are, too.