Tears at Bedtime


 Last week ,before we all set of on our  Indian  Himalayan trek today the group had supper together. This was in a fine  arts and crafts Edwardian house in Chiswick. Our host a very  old friend who had survived a  first and disastrous marriage and a business scandal to become a very successful business   and family man told a sad tale. His actor producer brother had at the height of  his TV career crashed ,burnt and disappeared to the South of Italy to  teach English and change his name. All contact had been lost and or rejected.

It rang a bell. Vivien’s brother having survived two marriages and at least two bankruptcies retired to the wilds of West Brittany to lead a self sufficient and reclusive life. There is an almost complete radio silence. He hasn’t talked to his grown up children for thirty years , he arrived late for his father’s funeral;  he is not on the internet and any letters are replied in a most perfunctory third person way.

Oh dear. Families sibling rivalry.  In my own life, one of my sisters  asked me a year ago if I liked her. I  foolishly replied honestly. The thin strand of our relationship is now broken ,no doubt for ever. We both have other families.

I know few, though I do know some, of my contemporaries who talk well of their siblings.  But I know many who don’t. Sins and personalities which are easily forgiven and overlooked in old friends are  birth marks which cannot be ignored  in your siblings. 

Freud said it is all to do with competing for the mother’s love. Others say as we move on from the  family nest  our siblings who we spent so  much emotional and physical time with, become like ex  adult partners, a possible or in fact, literal  time bomb.Many  go through life feeling that the other was the favoured one, they had the opportunities and so on.  My mother and her brother  were barely on speaking terms most of their lives for this reason.

Life deals different hands in  terms of personality,interests, careers, family satisfaction, health and so on. That can sometimes be very personalised. Those who draw the shorter straw resent not only the success but what they see as the patronage of the other. Gratitude in families leaves a very bitter taste.

Having four siblings, two I grew up with in a dysfunctional family and two I discovered twenty odd years ago,I can give you the results of this controlled experiment. Those I have the least emotional baggage with, I get on with best.

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