Bonnie Shell's Life Stories

Has your relationship with your siblings changed over the years?

When I was young, I kept asking my parents why I didn't have a brother or sister. Finally, when I was five years old, my sister was born. I was thrilled. I spoiled her by giving her everything she wanted. I shared my toys and gave her a lot of attention. A year and a half later, my brother was born. Because my mother had an accident when she was pregnant, my brother was born with a crossed eye. My mother treated him like an invalid.

Our relationship changed when my sister was eight, and I was thirteen. I wanted to go out with my friends, and my mother insisted she go along. To me, she became a pest. But she was well-behaved, so it wasn't so bad.

When I was twelve, my mother went to work outside the home. So I became a full-time babysitter. When I think of it now, taking care of a seven-year-old and a five-and-a-half-year-old was a lot of responsibility for someone my age. I also was in charge of helping them with homework and making dinner, which meant my homework got started after 7 pm. I went to a Catholic school, and we got a lot of homework.

My relationship with my brother was always strained. He became an alcoholic and went through two divorces. My mother pampered him until the day she died.

As an adult, my husband and I helped him find a nice house, and I helped him with his finances. At one point, he was hospitalized after becoming ill. After surgery, he was in rehab, and when he was to be released, I spent three days cleaning his house so the social worker would let him come home. I bought him enough groceries to last a week. We went to rehab and brought him home, and when he saw his clean house, he told me I ruined his house and threw me out the door. Unfortunately, he passed away before he turned seventy.

On the other hand, my sister and I became closer through the years. When I was eighteen and she was thirteen, we visited California to visit some family friends. We never argued or borrowed each other's clothes. My best friend and I fixed her up with her husband. They have been married for almost fifty years.

I was very sad when she and her family decided to move to Arizona, and the first time they were going to move, I talked her out of it. She didn't tell me when they finally decided to go until they bought a house and arranged their move. I cried a lot and went through a period of grief.

We visit each other at least twice a year and talk on the phone almost daily. My sister is also my best friend.