Large age gaps do not hinder sibling friendship

By Alina Panek

Mistaken for father and son, and sometimes even twins, Steven Le, Div. 585, and his brother David are 15 years apart. Steven is 17 and his brother is 32.

“People that haven’t seen me in a while, mistake me for my brother because I’m now about my brother’s height and size,” Le said. “I play along sometimes, and there was this one time when this guy came up to me asking me where my red BMW was. I was confused but then I remembered that my brother had that car. So I just said that I traded it in for a Camaro, which is the car I have now. It was just a random guy and I probably wouldn’t see him again so I just went along.”

It is surprising to find siblings that have more than a 10-year difference when the norm is having siblings with a difference of one or two years, but they sometimes have even closer relationships than ones with a closer age gap.

But just like any other siblings, Le was often babysat by his brother and over time they became very close despite the age difference. Le’s brother taught him how to play basketball, his favorite sport.

“He taught me everything he knows in basketball,” Le said. “Ball is life to me. If I had taken it seriously when I was 5, I would’ve been even better than I am now. But even now, we still make time to play basketball, when our schedules match up.”

Besides basketball, Le’s brother also brought him to events and family parties, and made sure his grades were up. Le looks to his brother as a role model and knows that he can trust him with anything.

“We spent this one day by ourselves,” Le said. “It started off with breakfast, followed by bowling, pool, and arcade games. We had a lot of fun. After that we played basketball together, teaching me tricks and moves. We went to get ice cream later that night to finish off the day. It was a really good experience because that moment I realized that he cared for me a lot and we were really close and that I could tell him anything.”

Le now has the opportunity to do the same for his nephew, Dexter. Ironically, his nephew and Le have the same age gap of 15 years just like Le and his brother.

“I’m going to also teach Dexter basketball. He has a little hoop and a little basketball,” Le said. “I’m trying to show him how to shoot and how to handle the ball. I heard that if you start children young with a specific talent, they will be really good when they’re older. So I’m trying to teach Dexter that even though he’s only two. So he can go to the NBA and make millions then pay me back for my teachings.”

Elisabeth Reed, Div. 672, has a similar story with her brother but with a twist. Reed, 17, and her half-brother, Thomas, 27, used to live together. Thomas moved out at age 18. Ever since Reed was born, she and Thomas have been close, with Reed hanging out with his friends to the two helping each other out of messes. It was a close relationship meant to be; their mother named them both after their grandparents. Unfortunately, they only see each other two to three times a year due to distance; but in spite of this the siblings still have a close relationship.

“I love my brother. I don’t know what to do without him,” Reed said. “We’re different but we’re really close. Each other’s birthday is the passlock to our phones.”

When Thomas left for St. Louis because of personal conflicts, she was only 8 years old. She learned a lot from him when he was in the house.

Thomas would sit and listen to music with Reed to teach her music and art. Thomas had an affinity for creativity according to Reed.

“He was a great writer and it rubbed off. He was really creative,” Reed said. “We used to listen to music and draw. It taught me how to feel the mood of music. We definitely connected more because of this.”

“I was always there for him and cleaned up his mess,” Reed said. “I saw the benefits of staying in school. [But I feel like] he did all the bad things, so I could do the good things.”

Thomas chose St. Louis because of the Job Corps Center located there. He received his GED and basic training for his career for free.

“He did a complete turnaround. I was and am so proud of him. This just proves that there’s always time to turn around,” Reed said.

Reed’s brother is now married with two step-daughters and a recently born daughter in St. Louis. He is a pastor with aspirations of writing a book on spirituality.

With the years of experience Thomas has taught, Reed feels more prepared for anything that the teenage and adult years might throw at her.

“Ten years is a big difference. I need to prepare [for the future] because I won’t always have Mom,” Reed said. “[Thomas] is good with dealing with anything. He knew how to take care of himself when he was by himself. He didn’t whine about anything. He just picked himself up and took care of everything.”

If the roles were switched between Reed and Thomas, Reed said that she would do everything the same.

“We were there for each other. He learned from his mistakes. I hope if I had a little sibling, it would be the same,” Reed said. “[The only difference] is I wouldn’t have left me to go to St. Louis.”

Denise Estrada, Div. 657, has two older brothers who are simultaneously parent figures and five year-olds in her eyes. She is 16, her brother Hector is 31, and Bobby is 30.

“They changed my diapers. They push me into doing the best I can in school and they also make me a better person,” Estrada said. “Like my brother Hector is always telling me about people I need to be careful about [when I am] out in the world because in his eyes I will always be 5. [But] every time I sleep over Bobby tells me his house is haunted and when all four of us went to a Linkin Park concert, my brother Hector wanted to throw his Batman underwear at them.”

Estrada sees her brothers often even though they have moved out of the house. Bobby takes Estrada and their sister Lorena to the movies frequently and Hector and his wife and children visit Estrada and her family at least once a week.

“They visit often to keep our relationship close. We text sometimes and Snapchat but there’s only so much technology can do to keep a real personal relationship,” Estrada said.

With a close relationship, Estrada has always enjoyed the perks of having two much older brothers.

“My brother Bobby taught me how to drive,” Estrada said. “He started freaking out, he was like ‘You shouldn’t be allowed to drive. You’re too young! This is no joke!’ But I think he was just realizing how fast I was growing.”

Estrada’s brothers have taught her a lot besides driving and these lessons have made Estrada into who she is.

“Hell yeah. I don’t think I would have gone to Lane or listened to the type of music I listen to,” Estrada said. “I wouldn’t know how to drive now and I wouldn’t have my priorities straight. I would be a different person.”

Nancy Villalobos, Div. 883, has an older sister who is helping Villalobos grow as a person. Villalobos, 14, and her sister Cicelia, 25, love to cook together.

  “Tamales was our success dish. We would make alfredo and lasagna from scratch, so we needed to knead the flour and everything,” Villalobos said. “It was really funny how we started throwing flour at each other, we got off-track, then just went back to work.”

Cicelia helps support Villalobos when she announced that she wanted to pursue culinary arts when other relatives expressed concern.

“My aunt was questioning me a lot about what I wanted to do with my life, like what to study or major in,” Villalobos said. “When I said culinary arts, my sister said, ‘You wanna do cooking? I wanted to do cooking but I got old and forgot how to cook.’ I told her she’s not that old though. She supported me on [studying culinary arts]; she told them to give me a chance, to let me cook something for them. I cooked tacos and they said, ‘Okay. She was right this time.’ Now, I get to study whatever I want.”

Cicelia also supported her in high school. She helped Villalobos navigate through Lane because Cicelia is an alum from Lane.

“She helped me by telling me not to have my map out,” Villalobos said. “But even before that, if I didn’t feel good in my eighth grade year, she would say, ‘I got you’ and pick me up and take me somewhere. She was allowed to because she’s a legal guardian.”

Cicelia also supports Villalobos and her family when they need it most.

“[Cicelia] still being really close [in location] is strengthening the family. Because I have another sister and she’s 18 and she’s studying abroad,” Villalobos said. “She’s somewhere in Europe. She’s doing a year-round thing. The moment she left, my whole family started slowly separating, but my oldest sister brought everyone together. ‘Okay, every Sunday we’re going to meet at my house, we’re going to eat some food. Watch a game or something. Celebrate.’”

Villalobos truly feels like her sister both supports her and her family.

“She’s the one who holds everyone together.”

It turns out that there is not that much of a difference between siblings separated by one year or ten years. Most siblings are close,  showing support, and loving each other dearly.

“The 10 years difference doesn’t feel like a difference at all,” Reed said.