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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Family ties

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I imagine that quite a few of you went through a time in your life when you were constantly being compared to a sibling. Often the comparisons were not in your favor, or you thought they were not.

Since I was the youngest of eight children I was well aware that each of the seven others around our table were far superior to me. I couldn't run as fast, read as well, do chores as quickly or as good, or tell as funny jokes as every one of the others could.

I didn't take into consideration that age differences caused a lot of my deficiencies. My siblings were not bad about "rubbing it in" to me. However, I often heard such things as, "Do we have to have her on our side?" But I'll have to give them credit. When I did do something pretty good they were all generous in their praise.

My childhood was certainly not warped by my own conceptions of inferiority. In fact, I think I felt more important partly because I had so many brothers and sisters who could do these things well. I basked in their glory.

In adulthood each of us found different ways to succeed and we each were proud of the accomplishments of the others. It was a red-letter day for me when one of my adult siblings proudly introduced me as his/her little sister and told a little of what I was doing at the time.

Unfortunately, as the older ones got older, it became my time to be the one who could do some things better than them. However, it wasn't a cause for pride then.

Now that there are just the two of us "little ones" left, I get great pleasure whenever something about one of my siblings comes up.

This happened to me last week as I was leading a class at an Elderhostel (now called Exploritas). My resource books were on display in the classroom and several of the books had belonged to my oldest sister, Miriam Gray. She had stamped her name on the cover of two of the books.

After my first class one of the participants came up to me and asked if I hadn't said my maiden name was Gray. When I responded she showed me one of Miriam's books and said, "I had a college professor whose name was Dr. Gray, could this have been her book, and are you her sister?" That started a lively conversation between us about my big sister. The woman was in college when Miriam was the professor and although they had been very close to each other, the student lost track of where Miriam had gone.

It was very interesting to hear her evaluations of my sister as a teacher. My sister Ellen and I had never been very good students when Miriam tried to teach us something such as a dance. But the Elderhostel friend said Miriam was one of the best. She credited her with her own success later as a high school teacher.

This was especially unnerving to me when she said that my method of teaching was very much like Miriam's. Here I am again being compared to an exceptional sibling. I couldn't see that our methods were at all alike, but I never sat in Miriam's classes so I couldn't really argue with her.

In fact I took it as a compliment that maybe I did something that compared favorably with a sibling.

Who knows, maybe I'll amount to something after all.

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus