Half a Generation, But Not So Far Apart

Me in my babysitting years with younger siblings

Me in my babysitting years with younger siblings. I’m holding “baby brother”.

My youngest sibling is eleven-and-a-half years younger than me, and he was not yet six when I left for college. I was his primary babysitter from the time he was just a few months old until I left home. In those early years, he sometimes felt as much like my own child as my brother. My memories of him are mostly of his baby and toddler years.

He was a sweet kid, very bright, and generally easy-going. He knew his alphabet and could read some words at age two (witness the airplane letter incident). He was willing to go along with anything his older siblings wanted, which I put to devious use (witness the airplane letter incident).

At age ten, he escorted our mother into the church when I was married. He looked pretty cute in his tuxedo and took his role seriously. But he still seemed to be so much younger than me—in grade school when I was in graduate school and getting married.

Today he turns 48.

One joke my father often told was that his first three kids each only took three years to get through college, while his youngest child (the brother turning 48 today) made up for the rest by taking five. But in later years, my father was extremely proud of his youngest child’s professional accomplishments—my baby brother grew up to be the chief pediatric resident at his medical school, and then joined a good pediatric practice in the Seattle area.

Today, my brother is not only a respected pediatrician, but a loving husband and father. And, as is typical of baby brothers, he grew to be much bigger than his older sister(s). Many of us in the family now rely on him as a steady and comforting influence.

My father appreciated very much that this youngest child of his talked to him almost every evening. As my brother drove home from work, he called our father to check in. Dad often said my brother called just to find out whether he was still alive, but I know it gave our father a welcome human contact every day. Dad dealt first with our mother’s declining health and mental abilities. Then he was alone after she moved into assisted living, and finally he was even lonelier after her death. It was good for him to know that this son of his cared.

At Dad’s funeral last April, this youngest sibling of mine gave the best eulogy I have ever heard. It was spot-on in describing our father, with the appropriate touch of humor and lots of love.

One paragraph from that eulogy reads:

“. . . I got my first taste of how organization can be of benefit by witnessing how my father used to get us going for vacation. When he said we were leaving at 8AM, we were always on the road by 7:45. He somehow got my mother and four kids as well as the dog packed, loaded and in the car early every time. I now have greater understanding of what a monumental accomplishment that is, as with only two kids our 8AM is invariably 8:15 or 8:30.”

This example and others in the eulogy showed me that my childhood experiences and my brother’s were not so different, despite the large gap in years growing up. We both, along with our other siblings, benefited from strong parents.

Happy birthday, baby brother!

When has one of your siblings impressed you?

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