816 Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: When sibling rivalry ages

“You know what you should write about …,” my brother began. I sighed. Several years of unsolicited suggestions flashed through my head. Not all of them were bad ideas but none was a good idea for me. I usually thank people and decline politely.

But this was my brother. Part of our unspoken sibling code states that polite doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of the conversation.

“Hey!” I said sarcastically, “you know what I should write about? All the people who tell me what I should write about.”

“You didn’t even hear my idea,” he said, a false whine in his tone.

I tried to explain. “It feels like taking something that isn’t mine.”

“I give you permission.”

How could I refuse? This guy and I are only five minutes apart in age (a race that I won). If I were to steal anyone’s idea it would be his.

“I think the world needs an updated ‘You Know You Are Old When’ list.”

Hmmm. Not bad. I was intrigued. “For instance?”

The smile that he flashed was very familiar to me: his pre-victorious grin. “You know you are old when you can’t differentiate between new technology and magic.”

I gave him a look of my own: Sister poker face. No way was I going to concede victory this easily. “I’m not really a list kinda gal.”

He was undeterred. “You know you are old when every time someone hands you a cellphone to take a picture you accidentally change the screen.”

I folded.

“I like it,” I said thinking of how many times in the past day that very thing had happened with ... um … a woman who shall remain nameless but may have changed our diapers.

“But fill a whole list? I would have to think too hard; it might hurt.”

He rolled his eyes. “Right, let me do your work for you. You send a text, then call to make sure that it was received.”

“You did that to me yesterday,” I pointed out.

He nodded across the table at our mother and said just a little louder, “Your house thermostat always reads 10 degrees higher than what you think the air feels.”

I snorted. Mom pretended to ignore him, which we’ve always read as an invitation to tag-team-tease her. It was my cue to get in the game. “You use ‘what?’ more than any other word.”

Poor Mom. I reminded her that she should start worrying when we stop teasing her.

My family speaks in facial expressions and her reply said, “Cease or I shall cease you.”

Our mama didn’t raise no fools — we switched targets.

“Your preferred version of Windows is casement,” he added.

It was at this point when we realized that our conversation had turned into a battle of wits. “You still get excited when the new phone book arrives,” I countered.

Your turn, brother dear.

He didn’t even pause. “Your first instinct when someone says, ‘Look it up on your smartphone’ is to hand that phone to a younger person.”

“You can’t consistently operate the TV and DVD,” I countered, then added, “You might be old if you are holding paper to read this.”

“You’re going to write a list?” His facial expression shouted, “Game, set and match!” I expected him to jump across the table in victory.

“No, not exactly,” I told him.

You might be old if well-practiced competition with your sibling happens every time you get together, but your heart knows that having someone who speaks your language, gets your jokes and shares your history is the only victory that matters.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.

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