May 10, 2012 0 Share

Glimmers Like Gold

Sepia photo of brother and sister with faces together, eyes aligned.

“It's crazy,” my best friend Tam said, smiling that mysterious, soon-to-be-a-mom-for-the-second-time smile. “Whenever I try to imagine what he or she will be like, I envision an exact duplicate of [our son]. Of course, that's ridiculous, but it's hard to imagine that they'll be their own new person, someone we could never have anticipated.” 

I replied, “Yes … it must be wild for you to be getting ready to meet a new member of your family, and for [your son] to be meeting his new sibling. Willie and I are so different, and yet, there are these small, striking similarities that I encounter every now and then.” 

And I told her the story of what had happened the night before. I'd been talking on the phone with my mom, coordinating birthday gifts for my dad and brother, so that I didn't end up giving them duplicates of anything they already owned. Willie's 25th birthday is coming up, and I wanted to get him something that would bring a smile to his face. I chose a pocket guide to dog breeds, since Willie loves to learn about canines. (I also wanted something thoughtful yet inexpensive, since Willie's been known to tear apart even his favorite books when he's having an out-of-control episode.) 

As we were wrapping up our conversation, my mom put Willie on the phone. Willie and I talk on the phone every week, so that he can practice his conversational skills and so that we can keep in touch. 

“Hi, Willie!” I said, happily surprised.

“Hi, Caroline!” he said, mirroring my upbeat tone. (I've noticed that Willie tends to match his tone to mine, taking his cues from my greeting.) 

As always, my mind raced as I tried to think of questions that were concrete enough not to confuse Willie, but which were not yes-or-no queries. We ran through our usual repertoire, and then I said, “Did you have your piano lesson on Monday?” 

“Yes...” he trailed off. I could feel that I was losing his attention, so I blurted out another question.

“What songs did you play on the piano today?” (Willie practices the piano every day, soon after his bus drops him off from work.)

“’Easy Rider’ … and ‘Rhapsody’ …” his voice faded out again.

“Great! Willie, you're so good at both of those. Which one is your favorite?”

Instead of answering in words, he started singing a few bars, oh-so-slightly off key, “Da da DA, dada da DA da.” 

I cracked up. I had no idea what he was singing, but I was thrilled that he was singing for me, that he was trying to help me understand. I thought our mom had prompted him to sing the notes, to remind me of the tune, and I made a mental note to thank her for that. But something else was tugging at me too, a memory, a sense of deja-vu … but I brushed it aside, and focused on asking Willie a few more questions. 

Soon after, Willie and I said our goodbyes, and he handed the phone back to my mom. She, too, was laughing at his antics.

“That's so funny how he sang to you!” she said.

“Wait,” I paused, “You didn't prompt him to do that? I thought you had!”

“No!” she exclaimed, “That was all him.” 

It hit me: I'd done the same thing a few hours earlier. My husband had been playing his guitar, and a certain chord progression had made me sit up and say, “That's just like one of the themes from Gilmore Girls! Da Da, Da Da, Daaaa-Daaaa.” My husband rai sed his eyebrows at my atonal singing, and continued strumming away. 

It was such a small moment, but it helped me to see: There are things that only our siblings understand. As challenging as our connection can become, there are moments when we do relate to one another like no one else … times that glimmer like gold for me.