I have lots of siblings. 6 living and one more if you count a brother who lived only a few hours but came to life again as my Dad began his death. My father asked me shortly before he died, “Please, remember Tom, I don’t feel like I did a good enough job acknowledging him.” From that conversation, one small way I tried to do that was to tell others I had 7 brothers and sisters. Most of the time I could say it and not get into some big explanation. However, when I first started doing it my wife was quick to correct me, “You have 6 brothers and sisters.” I was left with two choices: First, I could explain why I changed up my answer after so many years or second, I could just stop going places with my wife. After a brief yet thoughtful pause, I decided to start explaining why I changed the number.
Every child in my family had a new sibling show up after them but for me. So, at 52 years old my siblings are the only people I have been linked to every single day of my life. I feel grateful that I am the only one that can say this for each of them. Their forever presence taught me so many things. I have learned love, friendship, fun, help and gratitude.
The sibling love I have experienced seems like a thankful requirement of each one of us. We expect love from each other and give it quickly. They offer reassurance of an ally when I need support. The wisdom of a parent when I need guidance and the unvarnished truth of a peer when I am not seeing what I need to see.
My friendship with my siblings is both as one unit and then wonderfully as all separate and unique connections. This adds spice, a little mystery, and the ever-present invitation to have a connection with one of them when I least expect it. Those unplanned links together add a new chemistry to the whole unit but even better there is an intimacy that is just ours and we go back to the rest of our brothers and sisters and retell our version of the great time we spent together. It is as if those stories get kept in our own hearts but then we give them back to the whole group and those of us not present are so pleased that the visit happened and want to hear every detail on what we missed. We almost get jealous that we weren’t there.
Man, oh man are my siblings fun. I remember growing up where all 9 (mom and dad there too) of us were in the kitchen and the stories, noise and laughter would be flying around. If you were brave enough to try and enter the fray and tell a story you had better be prepared. I always felt like I knew the pressure of being a guest on the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Having your story bomb at our dinner table was soul crushing. Our gatherings are filled with a playfulness. We imitate each other. We poke fun at our mistakes. We see the world and find the same things funny. Each person can be counted on to deliver a laugh. My parents did a wonderful job prioritizing laughter and stories. They lovingly reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously. It is a trait I love about myself and a key trait I look for in others.
The main reason I wanted to write about my siblings is that they have taught me how to ask for help, how to receive help, and how to be grateful for this help when it comes. Being the “baby” of the family, I relied a lot on my siblings. I often say that I feel that my brothers and sisters raised me in many ways. I am so thankful for this. It created some freedoms that parents won’t give you. The tricky part of that is that I was watching rated R movies and listening to Richard Pryor albums way before I should have been. However, I was taught how to handle my next stage of life because I saw them in it before me and they were quick and direct about how I should handle it when it was my turn. This help/advice was given without asking and I rejected some of it in my youth. I was eager to make sure my older siblings were aware that I knew as much as them if not more because I would do it a little better due to their example and the expectation to live up to them. Later their experience became a source of deep help when I needed it most. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness at a young age. My brothers and sisters were concerned and always looked out for me in my struggle. I looked at college and each one was quick to advise me on what to look for and provided approval when I needed it. They rallied behind me when I got married and gave me the best example and help of raising children that I could have asked for. At times each of us faces crisis where the comfort of a family member is the only safe place. We have built space for each other to provide a haven when our deep vulnerability shows up. Ultimately, they taught me most how to take their help. How when my ego bristles at asking for and receiving help I should step back and listen. Over the years, the help came to me as advice, money and love. I have never been alone.
In my job, I am around the stress of money. Not so much the stress of money but more the stress that life brings when money uncertainty and worry prevail. Career moves, life insurance purchases, college savings, retirement savings, and investment complexity are some of the things many of us are asked to navigate with only small amounts of training. Divorce, death, job loss, huge portfolio losses, spending problems are all dark sides of money that leave a permanent sting and often affect how we move forward. So, my ask to any of you reading this is, if you see someone who needs help - Help them. If you need help - ask for it. My siblings showed me this. Help is around us, lead with some love and it will find you.
A small poem to Kitty, Mary, Tom, Barb, John, Liz and Jim!
You are 7 parts and I am one more
Together we have a story that’s the same when it needs to be
One boy, just hours with us, has been reintroduced when his dad left
I see your story. I remember each of your footsteps walking through the door when you came to see your mom
I love your children and their children. What good you have all done.
Your help is mine and mine is yours.
I am here, we are together.
This picture was taken at Red Rocks in Denver. We all went to a concert together to see Tedeschi Trucks Band. This is one of one of their best. Enjoy it.
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