Siblings in Old Age. Lil reflects on a lifetime of love, irritation and shared memories.

Thank goodness I’ve lived long enough to enjoy my brother. There were three of us and two (or was it twins?) who died at birth. Those two took up far too much emotional energy, particularly the latter who would have had an elderly mother who didn’t like children, not much fun. Lil writes…..

As it is we had a mother who didn’t like children but saved by the bell by a wonderful nanny. I always maintain that my mother only knew that I was female because someone told her.  There were three years between us and the Second World War.  As the youngest survivor, I was born in 42’, It took a while before I fully understood the handsome man who occasionally visited was my father, it didn’t make much difference, indeed it was a further 20 years before I found out anything about him. But this isn’t about Mum or Dad.  It’s about us, the three siblings, sheltered by Nan and raised in the haphazard fashion of a home based on liberal values and too much wealth. There were intellectuals, politicians, and vaguely parlour pink politics. There was also hunting, private education bordering on cruelty and a debutante dance for my elder sister. I sloped up to the altar at eighteen and into the divorce court about 17 years later.

My sister was faintly hysterical, clever and dominated what residual affection my mother had to offer.   My brother was labelled a charmer but lazy and not clever.   I remember him as dazzling, an Adonis to be worshipped, he regarded me as a bore.   Then we struggled to adulthood, my sister to higher things and my brother to the life of a square peg in a round hole. I lapsed into the bewildering world of a mental illness mixed with adultery but six children by the same father. My sister died a splendid death at an Oxford dinner party.  I had spent an evening with her, just the two of us and we had laughed and enjoyed ourselves for probably the first time in our lives. I like to think that would have laid the foundations for a pleasant maturity if she hadn’t dropped down dead, just like that, a couple of months later. But my brother and I persevered through the desperate years of bad behaviour on my part and strained affection on his.

Now we meet with genuine affection, not often but often enough. I enjoy his warmth and charm, I love his stories about our family that he bothered to find out and I turned my back on.  We smile nostalgically over the more extreme behaviour of our parents, shudder over certain memories and laugh over a good bottle of wine with the pleasure of sharing creaking knees, muddled memories and the antics of our children.   I’m sad my sister has died before we too, shared our old age but delighted I have the real pleasure of a special relationship with my big brother.

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