Being child number three in a four-person rotation, I spent the large majority of my childhood and teenage years interacting with my siblings in the usual way, which ranged generally between indifference and contempt, with some select moments of tolerance thrown in, albeit laced with acerbic wit, drowning in sarcasm and generously seasoned with practical jokes.
My older brother, being four years older, really didn't have much use for me one way or another. We were never in middle school or high school together. His bedroom was in the basement, which was creepy (and frankly, smelly), so I never ventured in his lair unless commanded to do so. I remember him working a lot: first as a paperboy with an enormous route, and then at the local IHOP. Later, he worked at a record store in the mall, which was an incredibly cool job in those days. Growing up we existed in separate orbits under the same roof, until that time that he spun off in his own direction. If I had to describe his personality to a stranger, I would tell them not to be fooled by his somewhat quiet personality. He was smart as a whip, and when his infallible logic combined with his razor-sharp wit, he could have you laughing while simultaneously cutting you to shreds, and somehow you'd still thank him and make lunch plans for next week. You could never feel too badly about it, because it was so artfully done.
My older sister, being three years older, had absolutely no use for me whatsoever, and made sure that I knew it every single day. It wasn't just that we didn't get along. We DIDN'T GET ALONG. At. All. It probably didn't help that for many, many, many years we shared a bedroom, which proved to be ample and fertile grounds for contempt. Despite the fact that we shared a common year in high school, if you asked either set of friends, you would have never known that we were related. It wasn't just that we were in different orbits. We were opposites, constantly repelling each other.
My younger brother, being six years younger, enjoyed a much more peaceful relationship. We joked and horsed around together. We recited scene after scene of favorite movies, comedy routines and cartoons, cracking ourselves up at the end, as if it were all new material. He greatly enjoyed my "free family" discount when I worked at the movie theaters, and I greatly enjoyed his naivety as I pulled practical joke after practical joke at his expense.
All in all, an entirely normal existence.
Nowadays, things are a little different. Our topics of conversation generally include complaining about glasses (having them, needing them, needing stronger ones), discussing our respective on-going home improvement projects, and comparing notes on everything from televisions to computers to sports to books to vacations to kids and to pets. Although we're all older, we like to pretend we're not, and in turn, we continually downgrade our actual age to something more palatable. 34. Yes indeed, I'm 34.
But here's a little secret -- I'm glad we're older. We don't live in isolation and we don't exist in separate orbits. We're old enough to have forgotten why we weren't four hand-holdin', Kum-bah-Ya singing siblings, and now we laugh at family photos that show everything -- good, bad and ugly. We're old enough not to care who gets the biggest piece of cake, who gets to sit in the comfy chair, and who controls the television. It's just so much easier this way.
Today the greater Tuna households celebrated three belated birthdays. They say with age comes wisdom, and I would have to agree. But I would also want to include tolerance, patience and understanding in that mix. We all might wish to have less wrinkles, fewer gray hair and days devoid of aches and pains, but the good news is, now we're friends instead of indifferent strangers or enemies, and that is the real bonus.
As for the rest, don't be too worried. In the midst of all these old age perks, our lives continue to be laced with acerbic wit, drowning in sarcasm and generously seasoned with practical jokes. And now that we have children of our own, not to mention nieces and nephews, it's a whole new ballgame.
I'm sure someone out there has never tasted vanilla extract before.