I have a brother two and a half years younger than me. As we grew up, he often bemoaned the fact that he was outnumbered by sisters 3 to 1. I don't think he ever forgave my parents for not giving him a brother to hang out with, although our sister who came after him had enough tomboy spunk in her to make up for the brother he never had. She rarely played with me and our dolls, but was mostly in his room with her toy horses, heading up the calvary in his imaginary wars. During such campaigns, she wore her cowboy hat and cowboy boots. She always came through for the rescue. You could count on her.
They match each other mind for mind, joke for joke and mischief for mischief. There have only been a few rifts between them. The rifts were serious ones. Like, when my brother pinned a beau of hers to the wall in the school hallway and told him he wasn't good enough for her (he wasn't). She hated the interference in her business. And then another time long after high school. They didn't talk for a few years until his wedding. I can't remember what it was about, but I can guess that it was about him interfering in her business. I do remember him telling me that he didn't care how mad she was, she was going to ruin her life and someone had to say something. He felt as though he was the only one who would stay up late nights and wait for her to come home to confront her. In response, she cut him off. She, the calvary and the adoring little sister who tagged after him always.
My mom fretted during the whole time during those silent two years about the loss of their close relationship. My sister was not an easy one to discipline and did not feel that it was her brother's place. But I've got the picture of them at the wedding reception, smiling Fran in mid-joke and John laughing next to her, with quick jab reply ready on his lips to shoot off. You can see the wheels in motion in both their heads, loving every moment of it. Being brother and sister. Knowing each other better than anybody. Knowing what the other was going to say before it was said. Respecting each other. Despite their teasing, they loved each other and cared a lot.
I had always been on the outside, looking in at their usual joke rituals and never taking each other too seriously. When they were with me, everything I said was taken seriously. I didn't quite have the same freedom. John and Fran were always looking towards me in a different way than towards each other. They expected something more from me. I was the oldest. I was sometimes jealous of their carefree and fun sibling rivalry. Because with me, it was just sibling rivalry. As eldest, I got priviledges and responsibilities that they didn't growing up. Which made me a target for their co-operative partnership to dethrone me. Is it lonely being at the top? Tell me about it. Plus, I wasn't as smart and had to learn the hard way how to survive. I longed for an older sister or brother to give me endless advice and take the heat from both parents and siblings. And against whom I could plot a takeover for once.
John had a tough haul being the only son, certainly. And after he married at 21, he became the father of three daughters before he was 27. Since he was the first among us to marry, he took the pressure of being the first to have to separate from our parents to establish a new family which is not easy especially at the age he chose to do it. But he did it well. He set a different precedent and established new patterns that would protect his daughters from the sexual abuse problems his sisters had in the family. This took some doing. Some bringing out some family horrors out into the open. Only a brave man could accomplish this. For this, John is my hero and the result is that his daughters trust him totally and despite their articulate arguements with his protective stubborness, respect and love him. They are all close to their dad. Through them my vindication as the victim of several childhood coups by him and Fran comes from the fact that his intelligent and accomplished beautiful offspring often make him a target to dethrone. He has had to stay on his toes. Yay, nieces!
When John and I talk on the phone, it goes for hours as he answers my questions. He does most of the talking about how his girls are doing. He knows them very well. It is obvious that even though they disagree, they have a great openness between them. He brokers deals with them and makes fair negotiations. He's involved and not afraid of a fight if it means he has to make a stand. He gets into their business. Heaven help the boyfriends who don't treat them well.
I'd like to think that having three awesome sisters while growing up has helped him a little to be an awesome dad. He knows girls, understands women and you can count on him.