And there we were…a brother and a sister…praying together.
Last Monday, I prayed with my brother before his surgery. As we began, the memories flooded my consciousness…
I was young…maybe 3 or 4 and I had told on my brother for something. Punishment was coming for my brother and I panicked and tried to stand between my parents and my older brother and beg they not punish him. My parents (while chuckling and trying to hide their amusement) asked me if I lied about what I’d told them. Of course I hadn’t and told them so. And my parents assured me that since it was true, that my brother needed to be punished. I cried again, “Please, don’t hurt him!” In the end, it didn’t matter…he was punished, I couldn’t protect him.
I was 6 or 7…our family prayed the Rosary an awful lot. We also went to Church an awful lot. One time we had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in our house for a week (or was it 10 days?) and we prayed the Rosary in front of her every night. My older brother was old enough to be expected to stay on his knees for the entire Rosary. I saw him many times praying on his knees even when we weren’t praying as a family. He told me that the statue was in our house to try and help our parents save their marriage. He told me to pray very hard that our parents would stay together.
Then, I was 8…and Dad and Mom were fighting even more and I was scared. I don’t remember the exact words, but my brother informed me that the end was near for their marriage. He was almost 5 years older than I was, and much more aware of many more fights in his lifetime.
And, I was 11, and a girl on the swim team called my brother a mean name, true to my protective form, I stepped up and I told her to stop. My brother said I shouldn’t say anything…that he didn’t need me to protect him…he could handle his own problems…he didn’t care what they called him. I remember being sad that no matter what, I couldn’t keep that from happening to him.
I was in high school and didn’t know what to do with the kind of attention I was getting from not-so-well-meaning-boys. And my brother was talking to me and telling me parables and stories and trying to help me see that these boys were not good for me. He was trying to make me see our situation the way not-so-well-meaning-boys would see our situation. No father at home. A mother who was busy trying to take care of her children. A girl searching for love and acceptance from a male figure. These boys didn’t respect me and didn’t love me. They didn’t want the best for me. And most likely, they didn’t realize they viewed my situation opportunistically since they were just boys, too. But my brother was doing his best to help me.
I came to college (I came “home” after two years in North Carolina) and my brother was there to hang out with me, to set me up with a “good guy” who was much better than those I’d called “boyfriend” in high school but who still wasn’t good FOR me. But, it was a vast improvement. My brother also got me involved with the crew at college which was a positive experience. And my brother helped me select a bunch of classes my freshman year that I really had no chance of doing well in…but that’s okay, I worked it out the next semester. At this time, my brother was in a bad-for-him relationship, too. But, with my troubled past in judging relationships, I didn’t feel like I was in any position to guide my brother differently. However, through all of this, we had each other.
Over the years, my brother and I have spent varying amounts of time in each others’ lives. We both got married the same year (only a month apart). His wedding was a last minute deal and some of my dad’s family put forth quite a bit of expense to come for both of our events. Our marriages have seen different trials and endured through the years. Through it all, though, one thing is constant…if we’ve known the other needed anything, we’ve tried our darndest to deliver.
If there’s one thing I know about my siblings, it’s that we all think of each other as completely indispensable. We need each other. We rely on each other. We support each other. We guide each others’ children. We revel in the success that each of us has. We cry with and for each other when life deals us our lumps. Somehow through all that life has thrown at each of us…we have been able to maintain a bond stronger than most siblings. I can’t speak for the spouses…but I know I am very appreciative of my husband’s innate ability to understand the bond I have with my siblings and that he’s not jealous of it. And he never underestimates it.
I don’t know that I can provide an environment where my children can form as strong a bond with each other. I believe my siblings and I formed ours out of necessity, due to our parents’ divorce and our situation with our mother and an absent father.
As one of the older siblings, I had an inherent desire to protect them all (older brother included) from pain, suffering, name-calling…whatever. It always pains me when I cannot protect those I love, even when it’s neither my place to do so nor within my capacity.
Last week, as my brother prepared to have a heart catheter inserted, again, I couldn’t save him from the fear or the pain. But our Lord brought me there still. To hold my brother’s hand and pray our comforting and familiar prayer. No, I couldn’t protect him from a heart attack or from the impending surgery…but I could be there. And so I was.
And there we were…a brother and sister…praying together.