Being siblings doesn’t necessarily make two people friends, and sometimes our best brothers and sisters are not related to us at all. I hope that my boys will be good friends when they are adults. As I watch them play together, I see their love and camaraderie growing, and it gives me hope that they will be a support for one another later in their lives.
I am ten and nine years younger than my sister and brother, respectively, so my situation was a little different. My parents moved out-of-state when I was twelve, so from then until now, I have not lived near my siblings. Though I didn’t have a playmate growing up like my sons do, I feel fortunate to have a wonderful sister and brother that I’ve been able to bond with as adults.
Just this month my brother has retired from a distinguished career as a Lieutenant Colonel the U.S. Air Force. After 21 years, he was deployed 13 times and flew 289 combat sorties. This was mostly during Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch (Turkey and Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War), and Bosnia.
He was a navigator in three different jets, and spent 13 years in the cockpit. For most of his military career, he was single, so occasionally he volunteered for an extra deployment so that someone else could go home to his family. Overall, my brother participated in seven different operations and won too many awards for me to list here. He is also well known as trustworthy, hard working and competent.
Of course, I still think of him as the brother that tortured me when I was a little girl. I especially remember one time when he was babysitting me, and just to get a rise out of me, he used our cat to trick me. He knew how much I loved the cat, so he took him into the bathroom and locked the door.
I heard my brother tell the cat that he was going to give him a “swuzzle” or something like that, and then he flushed the toilet. Gullible as I was, I pounded the door, screaming, imagining my poor cat drowning in the swirling waters.
Now my brother is starting his family just as I’m starting mine. Lucky for him he got to retire two months after his second son was born, and as he said, he is starting his “third life.” I only wish we could live closer so that my boys could get to know their cousins better.
Though my sister has not won as many awards as my brother, she should have won a gold medal for raising twins, a boy and girl, and another boy.
During my teenage years, I spent almost every Christmas vacation at my sister’s house, and I remember going to the library, doing crafts, and watching my niece and nephews swim in competitions. A child myself, I certainly didn’t know what it took to raise children as accomplished as my niece and nephews, but I know that observing their family gave me a sense of what a close family should be like.
I also remember the times that my sister would babysit me as a child. She was easier on me than my brother, and I loved it when she would suggest that we brush each other’s hair. That simple act of togetherness has stuck with me for years.
Now her children are adults, completing or having completed their college careers, and my sister continues to influence the lives of children as a first grade teacher at a school that specializes in the fine arts. Since I have had my children, she has been coming to visit me, and it’s a great gift to have her wisdom as a mother and teacher while she’s here.
My husband always says that when push comes to shove, it’s family that we can count on the most. If my sons find the mutual love and respect for each other that I have for my siblings, I’ll be a happy mama.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at email@example.com.