Both my mother and my father grew up in families consisting of two siblings—an older brother and younger sister. I’ve always wondered if that is part of why they were so compatible, although they each had an uneasy relationship with their sibling for much of their lives. I’ve written before about my mother and her older brother. This post is about my father and his younger sister.
I didn’t know a lot about my father’s childhood, but one family story that I heard frequently was about my father shooting his younger sister with a BB gun. The way I heard the story, she was still in diapers when it happened, though that would make my father (who was just 28 months older) only four or five years old. I cannot imagine giving a four-year-old a gun, even a BB gun. But then, I never lived in the rural Midwest in the late 1930s.
Anyway, as my father later told the story, his sister was sticking her white-covered bottom up in the air, and it was just too tempting a target. So he shot. Bull’s eye.
She cried, but no damage was done, except to her toddler’s pride.
Though if I had been his parent, I would have made sure his bottom hurt more than hers. But their mother, my grandmother, doted on her son, and I don’t think he got punished much as a kid. (Except by his grandparents, who made him toe the line, but those are other stories.)
The family moved from small-town Kansas to Pasadena, California, to Klamath Falls, Oregon. My dad loved the freedom he was allowed in Pasadena. I don’t know if my aunt—younger and a girl—got the same freedom to roam the entire Los Angeles area. My dad was not happy about the move to Klamath Falls. I don’t know what my aunt thought.
Just after my father graduated from high school, his family moved to Seattle, but he only lived at home part-time during his college years. My aunt finished high school in Seattle, got married, and my father and his sister never spent much time together after that. They didn’t have much in common, it seemed, and they went their separate ways in building families.
Their father died in 1975, and their mother in 1990. Still the brother and sister rarely communicated.
Until sometime after the turn of the century, maybe around the time my parents moved to Port Ludlow, Washington, in 2006. Long after both siblings had raised their children and retired from work, they became reacquainted. They didn’t meet often, but they emailed and phoned. “I’m closer to my sister now than I ever have been,” my father told me at the time.
She had health problems, but her death in January 2013 was sudden and unexpected. And as I have written, he died suddenly almost exactly two years later, in January 2015. But I’ve been glad the two siblings found each other in the last years of their lives.
I wonder if my dad ever apologized for shooting his sister.
What family stories do you know about your parents growing up?