The morning after my sister Melissa’s untimely death, I was standing in line at Starbucks with a friend, trying to get a liquid get-me-through-the-morning after not sleeping much… and he asked how many siblings I have. It was difficult, because I answered with my usual response to that question, and then had to hastily change my count.

I swallowed pretty hard and looked away after I corrected myself.

The truth is, my sibling situation is complicated — it was complicated ENOUGH before this week’s developments, but I figured I’d put the background out there for those concerned friends who are wondering what the hell is going on.

My father had a wife and children before meeting my mother, and from that family I had two half-sisters and one half-brother. We never really bought into that whole “half” nonsense anyway though… They were my sisters and my brother, period.

The youngest of them — Melissa, the one that died this week — was 11 years older than me. So it’s no surprise that a lot of my friends from when I was a teenager didn’t even know that I HAD actual siblings by blood. Considering I didn’t grow up in the same household as any of them (though each of my sisters have at different points shared a home with my parents and me) it’s perfectly understandable that friends who never saw siblings at my home didn’t know they were already grown and out of the house.

This is the story that I found myself telling by rote on Monday morning at Starbucks… I have three siblings, two sisters and a brother, from my dad’s first marriage. Though of course, I realized that it was time to revise my count. I have one sister, and one brother, and I miss my sister Melissa very much already.

It gets more complicated though, particularly for friends that I got to know after I moved out of Florida at 21 years old. (Including those from Florida that I met after I returned for a few years.) I’ve often referred to my “little brother” and my “little sister” as an adult, because there are two very special people that I’ve known since I was a teenager, and have always loved like family. And who cares what genetics has to say on the matter: I’m their big brother, regardless.

I met Damon when I was 16 or 17 years old, and he had just moved to town. And I met Erin a few months later, when Damon and I went to see a show in Melbourne FL and she was in the cast. We’ve had our ups and downs, the three of us, but throughout the years we’ve always stayed in touch. They may not be the family my parents gave me, but they’re the ones I chose to add.

At I write this, I’m on a plane with my remaining two “biological siblings” and my sister’s son. They flew from Baltimore and Orlando, landed at side-by-side gates, and joined me to hop on a plane together for the funeral. The four of us are sitting in the same row — them together, and me on the other side of the aisle in the same row.

It’s literally the only time I can think of that the four of us will be together in one place for 5 hours, and that’s just the flight out to the funeral in Nevada. I’ve seen all three of them at different times in the last year, but never all together for for this long. The next two days will be completely unprecedented.

It’s just a shame that it took our sister dying to bring us together like this.

My sister Melissa, from St. Patrick's Day 2008. Rest in peace.

My brother Jim and my sister Janet, 4th of July week, 2008

3 Responses to Siblings

  1. Katrina says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kevin. After dealing with the loss of my father-in-law just last week, I know that family is family, no matter how much (or how little) blood is involved in it. My father-in-law was more to me than the father of my husband. He was a dad to me too. There is no half in the relationship between my stepson and my daughters, either. We are all a family. My heart breaks for you. You are all in my prayers.

  2. Dorinda Lowery says:

    Thanks for defining our family so well. I often mention Jim, Janet, and Melissa as my son, daughter, as appropriatene, sometimes forgetting that newer friends may not know our family dynamics. I feel fortunate that I was a “co-mother” with Dixie to Missy for so many years. Missy helped me develop as a Mother, I think I learned how to practice “Tough love” with love being the majoy factor. Missy brought much to our family and I am thankful for the years we had together. She loved her Baby Brother Kevin and everyone knew it.

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