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All In The Family

Last night Dotter went to play with her cousin, A, which is my brother's daughter. She lives about an hour away so we're at the mercy of her visitation schedule. When she's here it's a pretty big deal. She's a spunky little ten-year old who is smart, quick witted and very imaginative. She studies hard and loves school. And she likes to write. That makes her super cool in my book. The irony that she may be the smartest grandchild born to the least intelligent of us siblings is not lost on me. But what my brother lacks in  intelligence he makes up for in psychological mischievousness.

I'm picking up Dotter after their play date and giving my brother a hard time because he hurt his foot wrestling one of his friends on a trampoline and now he's all hopped up on vicodin and trying to maneuver on crutches.

"You need to tell your Dad he's too old to wrestle around like that," I tease A.

"Old?" He says, "You're older than me!"

"How old are you, Aunt B?" I tell her I'm 37. "Which means your dad is 36. We all go in a row: Shannon is 38, I'm 37 and your dad is 36.... and Uncle Pat is 33."

"So how old would George be?" my niece asks, tilting her head up at me.

I look at her. "George? Who the hell is George?"

"Your brother," she explains. "You know, the one grandma gave away."

I shoot a look over at my brother, half passed out in his recliner. Mumbling in a muscle relaxant-y voice he dishes out, "Shannon, Bridget, Shawn, George and Pat." As if hearing this list of names will explain everything.

"Why did grandma give your brother George away, Aunt B? What did he do?"

I looked over at this innocent child. This poor soul obviously was buying into some ridiculous story my brother had teased her with - a missing sibling given away because they didn't behave or something. One could only guess. I looked straight into her eyes and said as lovingly and patiently as I could muster, "Honey, we don't like to talk about George. It's just too hard."

Fast forward to this afternoon when I called my mother (who just happened to be driving in the car with A) in order to tattle-tale on my brother. (Some things never change.) "Shawn told A we had a brother named George that you gave away!" I blurted out.

"Oh...," my mother said quietly. "Yes, George ...we don't like to talk about him much."

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