Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Andrew, Age 6. Mad scientist
How I respond when asked if I have siblings.
How do I answer that? Yes. No. I did. Whatever answer I give is awkward. If I say “yes,” then I’m telling the truth but if they prod…I’ll get to that in a second. If I say “no,” I feel like I’m being disloyal to my brother.
After Andrew died, I would tell the truth, “I did have a brother but he was hit by a car and died.” That was always met by looks of horror, sadness and then pity. When it was fresh, I might tear up. People always want to know more and then it’s awkward. Really awkward.
If I chose to say, “Yes. I have one brother.” the conversation moves on or, I get into the following situation. I’m going to tell the whole story for two reasons. The first being it portrays the dilemma that people who have dealt with loss relate too. The second, it’s pretty funny in the most awkward way possible.
I had just moved to Cardiff, Wales for a year. One of the first tasks of my new job was to go to a conference and help assist behind the scenes. I was getting to know the team and one guy asked if I had any siblings. Seems like an innocent question. Poor guy didn’t know what he was asking. I decided to say, “yes” because I didn’t want to get off on a depressing foot. The conversation proceeded and he asked more about my brother. How old was he? What did he do? I should’ve fessed up right there but I thought, I’ll go with it. I have no idea why. I said my brother was 20 (the age he would’ve been) and worked in science (at the age of 7 that’s what he wanted to do!). I totally lied. Again. No idea why. A few days later I actually went to him and told him the real story. I apologized and explained how hard it is to answer that question. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. What I do know is I wish that I could’ve answered that question very differently than I did.
The sibling questions is fairly standard when you are getting to know someone. It’s right up there with “what do you do?” “Are you married?” “Any kids?” There really is no avoiding the question. None. I’ve decided this is going to be how I answer this question.
“So Meghan, do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“I did but he passed away when I was 12.”
Since I can’t avoid the question, I’m just going to answer it head-on. It’s the truth. I loved having a brother and I love his memory. Yes, this may be the entrance to an awkward silence or look of pity. It’s part of who I am. What makes me who I am. I am a sister. It’s been awhile since I could claim the title but I think it’s a title worth keeping.