When I was little, I was very close with my older brother Bill. This was evident even when we were still quite little. Always cohorting or scheming. This continued into childhood. We would have nighttime meetings in our doorways after we were to go to bed. One time, we had a mission that we accomplished with great success. This included army crawling into our parents’ bedroom and leaving dozens of Beanie Babies all over their floor for them to wake up to in the morning. Mom has never suggested they were aware of their children wriggling around all night at the foot of their bed. I remember being extremely stealthy and methodical in the pursuit of this task, which are normally not traits I would apply to myself. But for Bill, and for his approval, I did it.


As we got older and Bill was hanging out with his best friend, Mike, I made concerted efforts to insert myself into all their activities. I followed them around the neighborhood, in the alleys, or wherever they went. I sat behind them when they played video games. I even pretended I liked toy guns to be in their war games. I yelled at a neighborhood bully when they did too, even though I was very small compared to him. Anything to be a part of the group.

The trio

Understandably, this annoyed Bill as I became a tag along character that needed attention constantly. Still, we had our moments. I fondly remember playing in the backyard in three feet of snow, having “Snow Adventures” for hours and hours. I also remember playing the Simpsons video game at Hackney’s restaurant. Running back and forth to Mom to get more quarters.

On one occasion, Bill punched me in the arm in the parking lot afterwards, probably because I had mouthed off. For some reason, that remains as the marker for me in terms of the downturn in our relationship. Entering into our teenaged years, Bill and I both had our separate challenges and struggles. We were perpetually annoyed and eventually always angry at each other to the extent where being around one another was virtually impossible. I believe now that we both felt misunderstood by each other and the other person was to blame for the disintegration of our relationship. In college, we were separated and we did not really communicate, save for holidays and in the summertime as necessary.

I had an incredible childhood filled with wonderful memories and Bill was intrinsically a part of that. It was weird going from being best friends to having a shell of a relationship, that was perpetually strained. I was jealous of other friends I knew that had a close relationship with their siblings. It really stunk having that void in my life, but I thought Bill was never going to change and I didn’t feel I needed to myself.

Fortunately, as Bill and I have gotten older, we have become more self-aware, accountable for our actions, and just simmered down, in general. We don’t have the same propensity for outrage and judgment that we did in the rougher times. In the last few years, we’ve slowly patched up the holes of misunderstanding and lack of communication. I have really enjoyed reconnecting with my brother and not being afraid or averse to spending time with him. We have a lot of fun.

What I have always appreciated about Bill is his sense of humor, his in depth pursuit of knowledge regarding the topics that interest him, his creativity, strong work ethic, and his ability to survive. I love these attributes, because I believe I share them too. I have marveled at his Phoenix like rebirth as someone who is willing to compromise, listen, and cherish. Gone are the days of tension and anger laden exchanges. For that, I am so grateful. I feel like we’re returning to the friendship we once had as little people. Bill understands me very well, as family innately does, but I think it’s important to have people in your life that know the entirety of who you are, good and bad.

The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s never too late or too hopeless to mend a broken relationship. Eventually, I’ll figure out how to apply this to my dad. But for now, I’m enjoying my time with my brother again. Another lesson I’ve learned is that in any relationship, you are just as culpable as the other person. I was a little shit to my brother for many years. He made it easier to be that way sometimes, but I was never above it like I thought I was. Ever. I made the decision that I was always the innocent party, always the one that was right. I let that go eventually, with time and maturity, because in relationships, it’s never simply right and wrong.

I sincerely hope that anyone out there with strained familial relationships knows that they aren’t alone. It’s more common than you think, but it’s fixable and there is much more joy to be had with those that you thought were joyless or incapable of change.

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