“Are You Brother and Sister?”

“Are you guys brother and sister?”  the question came from our soon-to-be five-year-old granddaughter.  Dropped off by her mother for an overnight stay, we had a day of cousins and uncles and aunts, and of course, Grandma and Grandpa. I brushed off her comment with a:  “No, we’re married”, but the innocent observation shook me.

This is the kid that at seven months of age could crawl to the center of a room, pick up an object and stand with it; who even before she learned to convert that movement into walking, could express herself in words.  Seldom frustrated, she has demonstrated perseverance time and again in learning new tasks, and has a remarkable level of empathy for those around her.  On her last visit, when I stated that I was too tired to read another book, she read it to me (with a little help for words she hadn’t seen before).  She has taught herself to swim without a life-jacket, and now jumps off the diving board.  She is currently trying to learn to dive.

She is an astute observer of life – raised by my daughter without a father on the scene – and is not afraid to question the world around her.  I remember picking her up for a sleepover when she was just eighteen months old.  It was the dead of winter and as we drove along the highway, she exclaimed:  “Grandma, look at the trees!  The leaves fell off; we need to fix them!”

So what makes her think Grandma and Grandpa are siblings rather than a married couple? Could it be the fact that we spend much of our day in separate rooms, with our own personal screens?  Or that Grandma oversees most of her care when she visits?  Or is she just commenting on what has sadly become our reality?

We are, for all intents and purposes, like brother and sister, sadly.  Years of illness and injuries have created physical space between us, and the desire to find common interests waned with time.  We go about our daily lives, with spotty conversations, some shared meal times, and the obligatory nighttime peck.

So the comment of an almost five-year-old has got me thinking – next week is our anniversary – what can I do to liven up this relationship?  After all, we have the responsibility of modeling for the generations that follow what mature love looks like – shouldn’t it have a little more spice?

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

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