A sibling heard I would be within a few hours’ drive from her this week. She offered to come visit. I suggested meeting halfway, since her vehicles are unreliable and expensive to operate. But she refused. So I bought her dinner at a swanky restaurant to make it worth her drive. She appreciated it.
We met in the early evening, and talked for hours while the empty restaurant filled up, became very noisy, then slowly quieted down again as the crowd thinned out. We had not seen each other for a few years, so we were in no hurry.
She talked about her recent effort to contact some of our parents and grandparents. They are fairly old by now. Long-ago events shattered that node of the family and sent my siblings and I on our separate trajectories far afield. I haven’t thought of those people in a long time, and haven’t spoken to them in a much longer time. But my sibling felt obligated to try to contact them again, hoping for some sort of reconciliation before they die.
Parent rebuffed sibling, as I would have predicted, treating sibling with cold disdain and ill-concealed anger. But the grandparent is quite ancient now, and has little memory left. Sibling had a nice conversation with grandparent, she reported. “That’s probably because grandparent couldn’t remember that she was supposed to be cruel to you,” I said with a smile. So the attempt wasn’t totally fruitless. But since parent is grandparent’s caretaker, having sibling go visit grandparent is fairly unlikely. That phone conversation sibling had with grandparent may well be the last contact they have before grandparent dies. Sibling was wistful.
“Look at it this way,” I said. “At least you had a nice chat with grandparent. If it’s the last time you talk, at least it was a nice goodbye.” Sibling agreed. We talked for awhile longer, then called it a night. She dropped me off at my hotel and then made the long trip back home.
I was still confused, though, why sibling would make such an effort to talk to those people, much less drive such a long way to see me. Darling wife had to explain it to me later. Wife said, “Your sibling needs family because she is female. You males couldn’t care less about relationships, but females are the caretakers and the fence-menders. Relationships are important to females. And when that node of the family dies off, you will be the only immediate family she has left. She feels like she needs family, so she’s reaching out to you all, even the ones who shun her.”
“Oh,” was all I could think of to say. None of that had occurred to me. That’s probably why I only talk to sibling every few months. It doesn’t occur to me to call her more frequently. I love her, I’m not shunning her, but for me, out of sight is out of mind. Unless I have a reason to talk, I don’t call.
Perhaps that will need to change.