A Sibling Quiz





  1. How much time did you spend with your siblings growing up?

a)    A lot

b)    Not as much as I would have liked

c)    Very little

d)    None at all


  1. Did both of your parents work outside of the home?

a)    Yes

b)    Only my dad

c)    Only my mom

d)    One or both worked off and on

  1. How did you get along with your siblings?

a)    Extremely well

b)    Okay

c)    Not great

d)    Terribly

  1. What activities did you and your siblings share?

a)    Everything

b)    Sports/Other

c)    Academics

d)    Music

  1. How would you rate your parents’ (parent’s) discipline?

a)    Very strict

b)    Inconsistent

c)    Lax

d)    What discipline?

  1. How often did your parents encourage you to get along with your siblings?

a)    All the time

b)    Regularly

c)    Rarely

d)    Not at all

  1. Did you or someone else take care of your younger sibling(s)? If you are an only child or a younger sib, who took care of you?

a)    Yes. I was responsible more than I would have liked

b)    I sometimes took care of my siblings

c)    Rarely. We usually had a babysitter

d)    Never

  1. If a sibling were bullied and/or physically harmed, you would:

a)    Step in immediately to help

b)    Let him/her work it out without my help

c)    Tell a parent

d)    Post on Facebook or other social media sites

  1. Did your family take an annual vacation? How did it go? If you didn’t spend time together away from home, how was family time at home?

a)    We had a blast

b)    I was bored out of my mind

c)    My sibling(s) and I fought all the time

d)    I will never take another family vacation

  1. If you’re an adult, how do you get along with your siblings?

a)    We’re best friends and help each other out as much as possible

b)    We see each other occasionally

c)    We don’t agree on much of anything

d)    We are estranged


If you had 9 to 10 a’s, you enjoy a very close and supportive relationship with your sibling(s).


If you had 7 or 8 a’s, your relationship with your sib(s) has played a role in your life, mostly positive.


If you scored 6 or 5 a’s, you and your sib(s) are distant and don’t have much in common.


If you scored 4 to 0 a’s, you have a very conflicted or nonexistent connection with your sib(s).

How did you do?  Surprised?  

According to one large study, two-thirds of people said a brother or sister was one of their best friends. Jill Suitor, a sociologist at Purdue University, and her colleagues polled 274 families with 708 adult children (ages twenty-three to sixty-eight) in 2009 and found that the majority had good feelings toward their siblings.


My Brother’s Suicide



On his thirtieth birthday, some time in mid-afternoon, my brother stuck a hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The coroner said he died instantly. My brother made sure of that. No more half-hearted cries for help. No more drug overdoses. No more jumping out of a Mexican police car speeding through the countryside en route to the nearest jail. This time he meant business and orchestrated his death with more precision and care than he’d managed anything else in his abbreviated life.

My mother found his body. She called the coroner and had what was left of my brother removed. (“It would have killed your father to see him like that.”) She found the name of a cleaning crew who did this kind of thing and had the mess all tidied up before my father arrived home. No more blood splatters on the wall, no bullet hole, no cigarette butts in the ashtray next to the bed. Just an empty, sterile room with little trace of the troubled man — my brother — who had killed himself earlier that day.

My feelings bounced like a ping pong ball on Red Bull. I should have saved him. I did the best I could. But that wasn’t enough. My life was beset by my own problems—a marriage gone sour, the responsibilities of single parenting, the search for myself. I didn’t have the time or the strength to focus on my brother. Besides, he’d stopped listening to me. Whatever respect he’d had for my opinions had morphed into a self-righteous, know-it-all, unmovable attitude that allowed no room for his older sister’s or anyone else’s suggestions.

And now he’d gone and killed himself, leaving me and the rest of our family to drown in a sea of raging emotions. If only I could talk to him. I’d let him know what a selfish bastard he was for leaving without so much as a warning. I’d chastise him for not getting his shit together. I’d ask him why in his last days he succeeded in overcoming his inertia and fooled everyone while carefully organizing his final shot. The muscles in my neck wrapped tight around in a strangle hold more forceful than any pro wrestler could manage. My brother had me tied up in knots, knots that no masseuse or therapist or time could untangle and soothe.

Everyone understandably recognized my parents’ grief. No one could possibly understand what my two younger siblings and I felt. We were “secondary mourners” whose pain was for the most part overlooked with most of the focus, squarely on my parents. Looking back, I get that. At the time, I felt marginalized, alone, and angry. Only a handful of well meaning people attempted to make me feel better by patting me on the back with a “Keep an upper lip” or “Things will get better. They always do.” Bullshit. My life would never be the same. How could it? My brother had been the benchmark against which I evaluated myself and my position in the hierarchy of our family. I had been his loving, comforting, protective caretaker—his older sister/mommy. When my mother had her hands full with my youngest brother and baby sister, I was there to pick up the slack. I basked in the power, influence, and adoration the surrogate mother mantle provided. The way I saw it, my brother and I were in sync like a perfectly tuned guitar. We weren’t twins. We didn’t finish each other’s sentences. But we liked the same people, shared similar interests, and were sometimes willing to break the rules.

It’s funny that after all the years, there is one memory that, more than any other, gives me some comfort.

We were standing in the narrow hallway carpeted in a burnt orange shag that connected my parents’ bedroom with the other four. The hallway, no wider than five feet, made it almost impossible for two people to pass each other without one having to turn sideways and slink by. The “children’s” wall phone with a long cord that, when stretched, barely reached my bedroom, was silent for the first time that evening.

My brother stood there, his t-shirt off, his jeans worm out after a day of school and a hard fought game of pickup football. His pale, almost hairless chest had filled out, developed. His back was covered with pimples.

I loved popping pimples and, because I had few of my own, I asked my brother if he’d let me pop a few of his.

Without hesitation, he turned around. I put my thumb on one of the biggest pustules and my pointer finger on the other side and squeezed. Puss oozed, and I was complete. Just for a moment. There were more pimples to pop, and I went about my obsession with joy.

Without my knowing, everything would ooze again, only this time with blood and guts.

Talking about death is rarely easy. Talking about a suicide is even more uncomfortable. What do you say beyond “I’m so sorry”? It’s apparently impolite and incorrect to ask the questions on everyone’s mind: How did he do it? Was he mentally ill?   Did he have a drug problem? What else could have been done to prevent this? Everyone wants a reason — an explanation. It helps us begin to process such an unfathomable act, to make some sense out of the incomprehensible. What no one understood, including me, is that there’s never just one reason why someone kills himself. Sure, there may be an event that pushes a person over the edge, but, in truth, there are multiple factors. And it takes years of delving into a person’s past before making at best an educated guess as to what went wrong. That’s all it is, an educated guess.

God, the questions are endless.