I spent last weekend with my two brothers in Vilano Beach, an island just north of St. Augustine, in a house that fronts the Atlantic Ocean.
The house is battered grey by years of sun and wind; its décor a step back to the 1970s with foil wallpaper, macramé wall hangings and avocado-colored pots and pans.
In many ways this weathered house with its ’70s feeling was a perfect setting for a weekend away with my brothers. The three of us last lived together in the 1970s, when I was in college and the boys in high school.
We were middle children in a large Minnesota family. We grew up close in age (my parents had 10 children in 14 years), and most of us never moved farther than a few hours from our father’s home in St. Paul.
Jimmy and I were the only ones to leave the area, moving to Florida in our 20s. But the 1,500 miles separating us from our brothers and sisters never changed how we felt about them. That was especially true for Jimmy and Tom, who have always remained close.
Over the years, Jimmy and I have looked forward to visits from our brothers and sisters. In the beginning, when we were all young and Florida still a novelty, three or four siblings would visit each year.
That pace slowed as we married, had children, and our work commitments grew. Time off became precious, and visits from brothers and sisters slowed to just once or twice a year.
So when brother Tom announced a few weeks back that he and his wife Sue were coming for a visit, it was a wonderful surprise, and we planned the weekend together in Vilano Beach. It was not long after the dinner plates were pushed aside and the carrot cake served that we began to reminisce about our childhood in the 1970s. The house by the sea, with its furnishing so much like our family home, was a perfect setting. The conversation was fast-paced and reflective. We shared wonderful memories from our childhood, as well as painful times. But no matter what was said, there was never a doubt about the love and commitment we felt for each other.
Like most families, it does not matter how long it has been since we were last together. We can go weeks, even months, without seeing or talking to each other. Yet when we next connect, it’s as if we had been together the day before.
I suppose it’s the bond we have as siblings that makes this so. The love we have for our brothers and sisters is ingrained in our souls. It allows us to accept each other for all that is good, to believe in each other despite challenges, and to forgive the things that are best forgotten.
And, as I pause to reflect on my blessings this Thanksgiving, my heart is filled with gratitude to have shared my life with brothers and sisters whose love remains constant, despite the time between our visits, and the miles that keep us apart.
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