Still My Brother

December 12-20, 1998

Once upon a time there were two brothers. They did not have the same mothers or fathers but they were, none the less, brothers. They grew up in the same house, they went to the same school, they played in the same neighborhood, they attended the same church. They had as much, and as little, in common as any two brothers anywhere.

As children, they fought at least as often as they played well together. The older one protected the younger from school bullies and bullied him, at leisure, in their home. The younger one idolized his big brother and regularly tattled on him to their parents. As they grew up, they differed in their approach to school, sports, entertainment, and romance, while maintaining their “push-me-pull-you” relationship.

As adults, they chose to work for the same employer, but in vastly different jobs. They married women of vastly different temperaments, but had amazingly similar children. They often moved around the country with their jobs, and rarely managed to get home for the same holidays. When they did meet, their greetings tended to be either the stiff formalities of distant adults or the affectionate harassment’s of their childhood. Their touch was an occasional handshake or playful punch to arm or gut.

The parents of these young men aged and grew ill. The brothers began to meet more frequently, unfortunately, at the bedside of one or the other ailing parent. Eventually, they buried their father on a stormy, cold October day. Their mother’s health continued to fail and, refusing to leave her hometown, she was placed in a nursing home. One day she fell at the home and broke her hip. The medical staff notified the brothers and they both arrived to take care of her. They argued over the best ways to accomplish their individual visions of “what’s best for Mom”, and accepted the extended family’s advice that they leave her where she was and visit her often.

However, as with many elderly patients, the fall led to other problems and the hotel near the hospital became as familiar to them as their childhood home. When the final call came, telling them that she had not awakened that morning, both brothers rushed back to tend to the now-familiar rituals of death and loss. The younger arrived at the hotel first, securing a suite with a center sitting room. A few hours later the older brother arrived. With bags in hand, he crossed the sitting room. In front of God, their wives, and their children, the two men approached each other. The older dropped his bags, embraced the younger fully and tearfully proclaimed, “This doesn’t change ANYTHING. You are STILL my BROTHER!”

HINT: Do biological siblings consider that the death of one or both parents negates their relationship? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. Still, I know countless adoptees for whom this is a big issue...Will “they” still accept me when Mom/Dad are gone? Will I still be part of the family? Many have found that they ARE still accepted, but others are not so fortunate. It is no wonder that the death of an adoptive parent can often trigger the need to search for birth family!


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