Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Siblings: #AKwritingChallenge Day 7

I'm an only child. My mom was very young - only eighteen - when she had me. I'm pretty sure she always thought she'd have more kids after I was born, but it never quite happened that way. We've talked about it before. If things had been different between her and my dad, I wouldn't have been an only child - but I respect where Mom's head was at here. She and I were best on our own there at the beginning.

I have an awesome step-dad. He's seriously the coolest. His name is Larry, but that's not what I call him. He's been Larrabee from as far back as I can remember. Did you ever watch Get Smart with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon? Well, the agents worked under a man named Larrabee. That's where my dad got his name ... but I don't think I'm the one who gave it to him.

When I was five, I met Larrabee's kids for the first time. He's has two of them, a daughter and a son. Christin is five years older than me and J.R., her brother, is two years my senior. Larry lived in a house that I only vaguely remember down in east Denver. That's where I met the kids who would eventually become my step-siblings. I'll be honest ... I wasn't too sure about the whole situation.

Chris and J.R. were good at being siblings. What I mean is that they'd grown up knowing what it was like to have another kid in the family ... they were good at calling window seats and all the other little things kids do when they have a bit of competition in their every day lives. It had always just been me. I was a quiet, shy, incredibly sensitive kid. I didn't know what all that sibling rivalry was about ... and sharing? My crayons had always been mine. Let's just put it this way ... I sat in the middle of the back seat - always - but the sharing part came easily enough. I think it was J.R. who gave Larry his nickname, Larrabee. He and Chris called my mom Linda Lou, too. Larrabee stuck. Even my kids call him that. I'm not sure about Linda Lou.

I saw Chris and J.R. quite a bit while I was growing up. They lived in Boulder with their mom, but they came to visit on some weekends, and we took a lot of family road trips together. They lived with us one summer, and during the infamous Colorado blizzard of '82, the three of us were housebound together without our parents. The snow came down hard on Christmas Eve, stranding a lot of people, including Larrabee and Linda Lou, who both got stuck at work. I was eleven, which made Chris sixteen and J.R. thirteen. The three of us camped out in the house, opened every single one of our Christmas presents before wrapping them all back up again, and entertained ourselves by riding the couch cushions down the stairs like sleds. By the time it stopped snowing late Christmas Day, three feet of the white stuff had fallen. A few days later, J.R. and I bundled up and trudged down to the local convenience store (it was called Shop 'N Go back then). The snow was waist high and I seem to recall climbing a fence between the house and our destination. That bit is a little fuzzy ... but it just goes to show how far a couple of kids will go for some candy. 

J.R., me and Chris. Guess who's still in the middle?
I also had a step-brother on my dad's side. I met Joe when I was seven and he was three. I thought Joe was the most amazing thing ever. He was sweet and kind and I loved him immediately. I was the oldest - something I wasn't used to being - and Joe and I became very close friends. We were allies. Life with my dad was oftentimes scary. Having another kid to bond with made it a hell of a lot better.

I have a great photo of Joe and I taken at Elitch Gardens ... but it's packed away and inaccessible right now. I haven't spoken to him in twenty-five years. Our lives turned out a lot different ... at least there for a while. Some stuff happened - nothing I care to write about here - and we wound up going our separate ways. I don't know where he is now, or what he's up to. I don't know how his life turned out, but I certainly hope it's good. I still miss him, truth be told - at least the him that I knew as a child and a teenager. He was a bright spot in my life for a good many years. I hope he's doing well. I hope he's happy.

So, I don't have any sisters and brothers related to me by blood. It's true, I am an only child ... but family can be tricky sometimes. I'm not incredibly close with Chris or J.R. I haven't actually seen them since the above photo was taken. That was Christmas, 2008.  All three of us have spouses and kids, careers and busy lives. We all live in three different directions. I did get the opportunity to work for J.R. and his company, Veloscapes, doing a little editing for his spectacular website. We all keep up with each other for birthdays and things.

Are we alike? In some ways, sure. I don't know about Joe, but with Chris and J.R., I can say that we all have kids whom we love and spouses we've built our lives with. We care about a lot of the same things, but we are still very different. I am glad that they have all been a part of my life. I never did get the whole 'window seat' thing down, but I'm an expert now at sharing.