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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Growing Up With Grief

My brother was born 55 years ago today, and came home several days later on my birthday.  Sadly, he soon contracted polio, and the complications of it killed him eight years later.  That was the first tragedy in my life, having a sibling who was first physically disabled and then gone.  I grew up with it. What happened to me was so much different from what was happening to other ten year olds that it became hard to identify with those who hadn't had something major to cope with.  Then, as now, people don't much talk about the sadness in their lives, and so while it wasn't verbalized, I was drawn to those who shared my silence and my grief.  I didn't know this consciously, but in retrospect it was the beginning of a life long pattern.
The first was a friend whose family had escaped the Shah's Iran.  How they had come to leave their homeland and live near me I never knew much about, but I did know that I was comfortable with them, and they nurtured another love, one of food from multiple cultures.  I never turned down a meal at their table, and my favorite meals to this day are those that highlight food that I do not make well, foods from cultures that are not my own.  The second close friend at that time grew up in a large family of adopted children, herself included.  Her parents adopted those who were hard to adopt.  Her sister had leukemia, another had hydrocephalus, a third was born without functioning limbs.  No one could visit her house and feel that they had the worst fate.  All sorts of unfortunate possibilities were visually on display.
 In many ways I was lucky to learn to cope with this early on in life.  Life is hard and not fair and yet exquisitely beautiful.  I think it helped me be resilient and thankful for what I have, and yet the sadness of loss had not gone away.  So today I once again thank my brother for everything that he taught me in his all too short life.


  1. So true Catherine- life is certainly a very mixed bag. I always appreciate and reflect on your posts

  2. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
    ― Mary Oliver