How I learned the age-old secret of being best friends with my sibling
It’s all about sticking together, no matter what may happen.
In September this year, it will be 20 years since the passing of our father. I was only 16 and in Grade 10 when he took his final breath in a chilly hospital ward.
While his absence has left a gaping hole in my heart, I hold dear the memories and life lessons he taught us.
He raised his children with love and showed us how to love each other.
I can confidently say this paid off, because I have a very close relationship with my sister, Lerato. She was my first friend and she remains my dearest.
My fondest memories of our father are woven through with the sound of music.
He loved listening to songs that had meaning, some funny, others spiritual. Not to mention more “mature” songs by the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Manhattans, and Teddy Pendergrass.
One song that stands out for my sister and I is Mdali Wethu by the South African legend, Ntate Caiphus Semenya.
It is a melodic prayer for strength and unity, and it ends with the story of an old man who taught his children the importance of getting along and remaining close.
In the narration, the old man tells how he is frustrated by his children fighting. There is no peace in his house.
One day, he returns from the bush with a bunch of sticks. He challenges his children to break the sticks, first as a bunch, and then individually.
Of course, individually, the sticks break easily. That’s where the life lesson comes in.
“If you stand together and remain close, no outside influence will be able to come between you.”
Though my relationship with my sister is special, it is not unique. We’ve have had our fair share of arguments and extended periods of silent treatment.
But we always find our way back to each other and work through our issues with love and respect. Over the years, she has become the loyal friend I did not know I needed in life.
Although siblings may not understand why their parents want them to get along while growing up, it all seems to make sense when we are older.
Siblings are the closest link to our past, and they can have an impact on our interactions with the outside world.
The relationship between my partner and his brothers, for instance. He grew up alongside his eldest brother and was only introduced to his second brother at their father’s funeral in 2008.
He considers his eldest brother to be his moral compass, thanks to his infinite wisdom.
When it comes to his second brother, it is their common interests — music, art, ideologies — that drew them closer.
Both brothers play a significant role in his life and help to keep him grounded, no matter the age gap.
The respect between them is admirable. They don’t treat him like he is the youngest. They learn from each other’s experiences with mutual respect and minimal drama.
Another example is my close friend and her sister. They were raised in different cities and lived different lives. They now live in the same city and spend Sundays with their family, making new memories.
It was initially difficult for the sisters to relate to each other because of the difference in their upbringing. But unspoken moments of reflection led them to talk about the challenges they faced, and to develop a healthier relationship as adults.
I understand that these are romanticised versions of sibling relationships.
The reality of most healthy relationships is that they require both parties to unlearn certain ideas and behaviours by actively introspecting.
Either way, may the relationships of yesteryear create the friendships of tomorrow.