I went to boarding school at an early age – 6 years old to be exact. I have selective memories of these early years; most are happy and laced with grace. Others are poignant and bring up the expected sadness caused by an early separation of child and parent. Some memories are sharper when I read through letters written home in a child’s uneven script. Letters that my mother kept through the years.
Evident in those early letters is a concern for the welfare of my younger brother, Dan. As youngest of 5 he was still at home with my parents. The letters reflect a zealous, sisterly concern for his welfare. I want to know ‘How is Danny? Is Danny lonesome? Does Danny miss me? Is Danny having fun with the kitty? Say ‘hi’ to Danny. I miss Danny”. Every letter holds a sentence or two specifically about Danny, the importance of Danny.
And today Danny – Dr. Daniel Brown – turns 50.
It’s been a long time since those letters. A long time since the small cares of childhood turned into the big concerns of adults. Years since that first grade penmanship that crafted words into sentences into letters home was checked and rechecked by hawk-eyed teachers, deeming it worthy of the eyes of parents.
The sibling relationship is one of the strangest relationships in our world. We grow up with these people called ‘siblings’. Eat at the same dinner table, are loved and nurtured, disciplined and scolded by the same parents. We sit around Christmas trees or Eid feasts, go to churches, mosques, or synagogues with family. They hold similar features, characteristics, and memories.
But we grow older and often apart. And we’re left wondering what happened. When did the ease with which we communicated, laughed, and fought turn into difficulty trying to figure out what to say to each other? When did a solid relationship turn sketchy and strained?
Sometimes, but not always, we figure out this new relationship and move forward – tenuously at first, but then with more confidence.
And that is what has happened with all of my brothers, specifically in this context – Dan.
It’s impossible for me to imagine what my life would be without him. From my concern for his welfare as a little boy to watching him enter his 5th decade of life, I am profoundly grateful for his friendship. He has wisely walked me through crises, soundly rebuked me when out of line, and shared his family and home with ours for years.
He is brilliant, stubborn, and wise. He is a husband, a father, a pastor, and a professor. He writes books of his own and edits those of others, all with a quiet humility.
While I am loud and opinionated – he is quiet and equally opinionated. While I am dramatic – he tends toward the practical. And while I am short – he is tall.
Sibling relationships have always been complex and perplexing. And my guess is that they will be complicated until the end of time. We have only to look at Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael, and Joseph and all those brothers to know we have excellent company in our struggles.
But as I look at my children and at times despair at the sibling ‘stuff’ – I have great hope. For blood is thick and family ties are strong, carrying with them an innate recognition of the importance of being siblings.
Because somehow in the life journey siblings matter.
Today, thousands of miles away in his new home in Istanbul, Turkey, my youngest sibling celebrates 50 years of life. With the 21st century ability to communicate I will be able to talk to him, to wish him a happy birthday. But it’s not enough – not the same as being in person. And so in a week and a half we will head to Istanbul to celebrate birthdays, siblings, the skyline of Istanbul, and Turkish coffee.
Because there is an importance to being siblings.