Outside in the Room Outdoors, two heads are bent over the newspaper, a picture of intense
concentration. My brother Phil is busily instructing my Little Sister (who is, of course,
his Little Sister too) in the Secrets of Sudoku. There is something inexplicably lovely about those two heads so close together, the furrowed brow (of my Little Sister) and my brother’s pen, carefully pointing out which number goes where.
One brother, two sisters - we were three-quarters of the way to a full Brothers and Sisters Day. Only the unavoidable absence of the eldest sibling, brother Tony, stopped
us being a Full House.
I made up for this somewhat by occasionally calling Phil by his brother’s name. This wasn’t an unusual slip-up on my part
- my Foursome will tell you that I often called them by each other’s names. I was the model, I think, for a particular picture showing a mother and her little daughter, engaged in some domestic activity. “Am I a good mother, Mary?” asks the
mother. To which the daughter replies, simply: “My name’s Susan…” Yes, dear reader, that could have been me…
My brother lives in
Scotland so we can’t meet up very often but he is, indeed, the perfect house guest. He gets up early in the morning and makes himself and Mr B the first of many cups of coffee. My brother is the only person I know who drinks as much coffee as Mr B and
me. “No need to apologise,” I say, when he says yes to yet another cuppa, “ We’re having another one ourselves anyway….”
he has finished his coffee, he walks down to the garage to buy a newspaper for Mr B and for himself. They read the same newspaper and share that urgent need to buy a newspaper wherever they are. Mr B was the same on holidays abroad - paying quite excessive
amounts for an English paper two days out of date. “I need to check that nobody important has died while we are away…” he would explain. I rather think my brother would understand…
My Little Sister, meanwhile, is proud as punch that she has managed to organise our mini reunion. It’s just a pity that her fella, my lovely brother-in-law, manages to come over Proper Poorly, having to take to his bed
for the whole of their second day. This means they must stay another night - and I feel selfish for welcoming the fact that I have my sister and brother here for another full day. My Little Sister, incidentally, cannot be classed as a house guest. Whenever
I have most needed her - when Mr B was taken into hospital, when I was recovering from my shoulder surgery - she was there. “On our way!” she would message me. Never was a message more gratefully received.
In the evening we watch CODA, that film which won all the Oscars, about the child of deaf adults. We sit, side by side, on our two seater sofa and weep at the same critical moments. We can feel each
other sobbing without having to look at each other. There are few things more companionable than weeping together over a book, a film, a television programme, knowing that we won’t laugh at each other however much we are asked: “Are you crying
yet!?” by the less emotionally involved among us.
Next time around, hopefully, we will be a full house and our elder brother will be able to join us.
We each of us have our own families now, special in every way to us. We have shared a lot of family news over our two days together. But these are my First Family, the ones I grew up with, the ones who have known me longer than anybody else. There is no dissembling
with them - they remember the little girl I was and watched me grow up.
Brothers and Sisters - if you haven’t seen yours for a while, give them a call. Tell
them you love them.
If you are lucky, they might explain the Secrets of Sudoku to you…