Jackie Bird’s Col­umn ...................................

“It’s not un­til we get much older that fam­ily his­tory and her­itage re­ally be­gin to mean some­thing”

No. 1 Magazine - - SCOTLAND'S NO.1 -

The mo­ti­va­tion be­hind hav­ing more than one child is often to pro­vide a brother or sister. In my day the doc­tors had no sooner dispensed with the pla­centa than older rel­a­tives would be ask­ing when you were go­ing to have an­other. But of course the flaw in the plan to pro­vide a pal for life is that sib­ling re­la­tion­ships can’t be pre­dicted. I know there are broth­ers and sis­ters who forge close en­dur­ing bonds; equally, there are those who are happy to see each other only oc­ca­sion­ally; and there are a few, de­spite the shared DNA, who get on like a house on fire – pro­vid­ing one of them is trapped in­side. As a lazy par­ent the logic for me was to have chil­dren so close in age that they en­ter­tained each other and gave me a break. But en­vis­ag­ing that when I’d shuf­fled off my mor­tal coil they’d be insep­a­ra­ble into adult­hood and life­long bo­som bud­dies was more dis­tant hope than ex­pec­ta­tion. Sib­ling re­la­tion­ships have been at the fore­front of my mind be­cause my brother (there’s just the two of us) has been in hos­pi­tal. The silly boy (he may be 52 but he’s still a boy to his big sister) fell and cracked a rib which punc­tured his lung. Typ­i­cally the ee­git ig­nored it for months and his lung filled with fluid, so over the last few weeks we’ve had the whole Holby City set up with surgery, lung drains and more drugs than a pro-cy­cling team. I’ve been fer­ry­ing our fret­ting par­ents to the spe­cial­ist hos­pi­tal which is far from his home and pop­ping in my­self, whether my brother likes it or not. As the high­light of his daily rou­tine is whether or not he’s had a bowel move­ment, I find my­self spend­ing vis­its gib­ber­ing on about the minu­tiae of my day. I’m sure there are mo­ments when he wishes I was at work rather than at the foot of his bed be­cause if I was on the telly he could at least switch me off. But dur­ing these vis­its some­thing rather nice hap­pened. Stephen lives about 70 miles away and our work­loads mean we only meet up for the oc­ca­sional fam­ily gath­er­ing. How­ever trapped in his hos­pi­tal bed we be­gan to rem­i­nisce about our child­hood: the TV ad­verts we mem­o­rised and can still act out, the Satur­day night car­pet pic­nics and chore­ographed play-fights, and the hu­man show-jump­ing course we set up in our back gar­den which pro­vided en­ter­tain­ment for an en­tire sum­mer. Dur­ing our rec­ol­lec­tions I emerged as a rather dom­i­neer­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing Big Sis – is there any other kind? (Ok, per­haps steal­ing the sweets from in­side his Easter eggs and telling him there had been a fault at the fac­tory was a greedy prank too far, but more fool him for be­liev­ing it.) Later I brought along some an­cient fam­ily al­bums which took us even fur­ther down mem­ory lane. As we re­called our as­sorted rel­a­tives and de­rided our par­ents’ dodgy 1960s and 70s fash­ions, I re­alised that Stephen and I shared a very spe­cial bond. We’d trav­elled through child­hood to­gether and were the only two who shared our tiny bit of his­tory. It’s nice to have an­other hu­man be­ing whose early mem­ory bank is al­most a car­bon copy of your own. We’ve grown up to be very dif­fer­ent peo­ple – he is laid back while I am a con­trol freak – but as we turned the pages of the al­bums and saw our child­hood, the long dead rel­a­tives and the events that only we can re­call, our re­spon­si­bil­ity be­came ap­par­ent. We are now the cus­to­di­ans of our his­tory and we should try to en­sure our own chil­dren keep a lit­tle bit of those who’ve gone be­fore in their heads and their hearts. As I said, un­til his ac­ci­dent my brother and I saw each other in­fre­quently. I’m not say­ing we’re now go­ing to live in each other’s pock­ets, but our time to­gether gave me a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of our re­la­tion­ship. Maybe those who urge par­ents to pro­vide broth­ers and sis­ters are right, that it’s nice to move into adult­hood with some­one who lit­er­ally knows where you’re com­ing from. The flaw in that plan, how­ever, is that in grow­ing up we be­come self-ob­sessed and com­pla­cent and it’s not un­til we get much older and fam­ily his­tory and her­itage re­ally be­gin to mean some­thing that we start to pay at­ten­tion. Then, spend­ing time with some­one who knows you in­side out is no longer a child­hood ir­ri­ta­tion but some­thing to cher­ish.

“I’m sure there are plenty of mo­ments that my brother wishes I was at work be­cause if I was on the telly then at least he could switch me off.”

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