Of brothers and sisters
Yesterday, The Legal Genealogist is told, was National Siblings Day.
And there is no-one who knows us as well… no-one as close a friend or as deadly an enemy… no-one who understands the shared history, the ups and downs, the glories and the disasters of life as a family… no-one in this world like a sibling.
And the stories of siblings are so much a part of the stories of my family’s life.
In my own life, there are all those wonderful, funny, sweet, smart, exasperating and frustrating people who have so enriched every day of my life… my siblings. Here we are, all eight of us, five boys and three girls:
Then in my mother’s life, there were all those wonderful, funny, sweet, smart, exasperating and frustrating people who so enriched her life… her siblings… my aunts and uncles. Here they are, shown around my grandmother in the white blouse and pink pants, the 10 children she raised to adulthood… five boys and five girls:
And then in my father’s life, there was just that one little girl… the baby whose entire life passed before my father was ever born. One little girl of whom all that is known is that she was born 10 September 1919 in Bremen, Germany, and died at the Children’s Hospital there on 20 January 1920.
Her brother, my father, was not born until July of 1921. He never knew what it was like to have a sibling. Never shared a bed or a room or a chore. Never shared a toy or a secret.
He lost his father when he was just 24, his mother just two years later when he was not quite 26.
And, at that moment, he was alone.
No-one to remember with. No-one to share the stories with. No-one who would know all the family quirks. No-one who would or could understand without words.
No-one to laugh with. No-one to cry with. No-one even to fight with.
It is sweet to see the photo of my siblings, to know that I can pick up the phone right now and speak to any one of them. So much of who I am is because of our shared stories: the stories of their love for each other and for me.
It is bittersweet to see the photo of my mother and her siblings, to know that only four of these 11 people are alive today, but a joy to know that so much of who she was is because of their shared stories: the stories of their love for each other and for her.
And it is unspeakably sad to know that there isn’t even a photograph that survives today to show us what Marie Emma Geissler looked like, and to think that there were no stories there to tell. Nothing at all in her brother’s life that even gave him a hint of who his sister was, or even what it meant to have or to be a sibling.