Tribune Print Share Text

Brother-sister bond at Greenspring

Home is where your heart—and your siblings—are!

Created date

May 24th, 2011

Thomas Jefferson was once quoted as saying, The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family. For many, adulthood means a separation from the siblings they were so close to during their childhood years. Yet for 23 fortunate members of the Greenspring community in Springfield, Va., choosing an Erickson Living retirement meant reuniting with their brothers and sisters. My husband, Jack, and I moved to Greenspring after living for many years in New York, says Jean Matheson. My younger sister, Janet Clifford, lived very close to Greenspring and introduced us to the community. About a year later she too moved to Greenspring and soon after we began discussing the possibility of starting a group for siblings. We really wanted to do something just for us and other siblings, says Clifford. I used my knowledge on the computer to create posters which we hung up around campus. We also posted a notice on Greenspring s in-house cable station. That s how we got the word out and, from there, our group began to grow.

Breaking bread together

Our idea was simple, says Matheson, we wanted to get together to share a meal and talk. Now two years into their gatherings, the Greenspring Sibling Group continues to meet the third Thursday of every month in the Fireside restaurant s cozy private dining room. I was surprised how many siblings were living here at Greenspring, says Matheson. There are months when we overflow the dining room. As siblings, we have a special relationship expressed in sharing a meal together, says James Hughes, who recently joined the group. It s very reminiscent of home. As a group we enjoy this time to share our life experiences. After living for 52 years in Pittsburgh, Pa., Hughes joins his sister, Betty Roberts, who has lived at Greenspring for ten years. Having Jimmy here is wonderful, says Roberts. I think brothers and sisters have a special bond. Even though we lived most of our adult lives apart, we almost never missed a Christmas or a Thanksgiving together.

New horizons

After he and his sister joined the other siblings for a meal, Hughes was excited about the opportunities they had to share their experiences. He agreed to take the reins and became the group s leader. While still meeting for a monthly meal, Hughes introduced the idea of having a theme for each gathering. This past January, the theme, Early Childhood Photos, encouraged the siblings to bring to dinner their earliest childhood photo. It was up to the other members of the group to match each photo with the correct sibling. Remarkably, we were able to match everyone to their picture correctly, says Hughes. To date, the most popular theme has been Your Favorite Book in Childhood. Through the heroic efforts of the Fairfax County Library, we were able to locate each sibling s favorite childhood book, including Heidi, Peter Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh, Aunt Green-Aunt Brown-Aunt Lavender, The Bobbsey Twins, Ann of Green Gables, Little Women, as well as many others, says Hughes. We displayed the books on the buffet table at our monthly dinner. It was so fun to hear and be reminded of the books we all enjoyed, says Roberts. My favorite book is called The Real Storybook. I ve never parted with it. It was read to me in the first grade and many of my favorite stories are in there. Other monthly themes include All Siblings Are Irish, Celebrating Spring at Greenspring, and Famous Siblings in History.

Family ties

For Greenspring s siblings, the monthly dinners are among their favorite activities. One of the activities we like best at Greenspring is the monthly siblings group dinner, says Betty Tiberg, who moved to Greenspring a little over a year ago with her sister, Ethel. The dinners have been a pleasant way to meet new people. We both like travel, like adventure, and we view moving to Greenspring as another adventure, says Ethel Tiberg. Living together at Greenspring means we can continue to share life experiences as we did for 15 years in a house in Falls Church prior to the move. Sisters Pauline Demaree and Carroll Gotte admit that they did not see each other often prior to their moves to Greenspring ten years ago. We can now enjoy each other again, says Gotte. Siblings have a special relationship that continues wherever we may be, says Hughes. My sister, Betty, will always be my big sister. She remembers carrying me around on her hip. As the youngest and only boy in our family, I will always be, to her, baby brother. I always say that it s the people who live here at Greenspring who make it the wonderful place it is, adds Roberts. I m so lucky that one of those people is my brother Jim.