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My True Brother. My Sister Down the Block.

Teri and Doug

I have two brothers: One is blood, the other one should have been. My blood brother has been a source of great heartache, but my “chosen” brother has brought me as much love, security and friendship as any blood brother could have offered. I’m so blessed.

Five years ago, when I moved to Clearwater, Fla., I met Doug and Teri Swift at a neighborhood Fourth of July party. When Doug mentioned he had a subscription to Star magazine, I knew we were destined to be friends. Just like him, I have an insatiable appetite for Hollywood gossip. So there. Now you know what intellectuals we are.

I call Doug my “brother” because, if I sent God a list of what I would want in a brother, it would  be him. He watches out for me. He’s always got some kind of adventure for us. We never run out of things to talk about. It’s the most amazing friendship —  one that extends to his wife, Terri, who is a sister to me. It is hard to explain what she has come to mean to me, except I keep thinking of the word, “home.” She’s a safe place. She’s the thoughtful, reasonable one in our bunch. She’s an absolute, true friend.

Family sometimes comes to us in passing, rather than by birth. I could sit here and lament the disappointments from my real sibling relationship, but all I have to do is look to Doug and Teri and realize that God sent me the best brother and sister in the world — even though we aren’t technically related. There is nothing better than double dating with the Swifts.

Last year, I completely renovated the pool, deck and landscaping in my back yard. Two days after the deck was down, I woke up to a half-empty pool. It was leaking, and one end of the deck had to be ripped up so the pool could be mended. I was crushed. The project had already consumed way more time and cash than I’d been told to expect. The men who repaired the pool left the bricks from the north end of the deck in piles. My office is right next to the pool and an hour later, while I was working, I heard tapping out back. I turned around and saw Doug putting the deck back together for me. He knew how stressed I was and just stepped in to help. It made me cry.

Then there was the day I turned around and looked in the pool, only to see Dougie floating in the lounger with his People magazine.

Teri is a great listener who has great advice. She hears my heart, whether the issue is relationships or work or whatever happens in the news. She gets me.

Every time I get an electrician or a plumber, Doug comes over to see what’s going on and make sure nobody rips me off. The morning after I closed on an investment home last year, I showed up to begin the renovations and found Dougie had beat me to the site, already fixing things. When I bought a pontoon boat and couldn’t get it on the trailer, he got it on the trailer.  When the water department realized my sprinkler system was hooked up wrong, guess who fixed the problem before I even asked for help?

The cool thing about Teri is that we get to check back in with her and report on our latest shenanigans. I love when she rolls her eyes or goes, “Oh, God.”

The point of this is that so many of us have difficult family relationships that cause us great pain. I am lucky because I have the most incredible, loving, devoted parents in the world. But, there is that brother… And while I could go into a loop wondering why that relationship is so tortured, I don’t anymore. Maybe my “real” brother was put in my life to help me learn that I am part of a much larger family, and that gives my life a richness and dimension that is far more real than anything I ever hoped to have.

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