When My Siblings Call

Nikkya Hargrove
5 min readMay 19, 2021
Photo Credit: Tim Coffey Photography

Every morning, even before my three children clamor for their breakfast, my phone pings with the words “Danny” and “FaceTime.” It’s my 29-year-old brother. Over the last 12 years, we have been working to repair what our mother broke: our ability to be traditional siblings.

I was 25 when our mother, 42, died in her sleep in a halfway house, a final attempt to recover from her own broken heart and addiction to crack cocaine.

I had recently graduated from college, and prepared myself to connect with my younger siblings as more than their sister, but as a keeper of our mother’s memories. We were her black sheep babies, raised by others who we knew loved us differently than their own biological children.

Then there is our sister, Ciara, the millennial. She will turn 21 this year. Rather than calling or using FaceTime, we text — an ideal way for two introverts to connect to remind each other that they are loved. My sister is beautiful, smart, charismatic, and never got the chance to know our mother. She was just 7 when our mother died, and had spent little time with her.

Our mother’s youngest child, Jonathan, never had a chance to form memories of her at all. He was four months old at the time of her death. He was suddenly my child to keep, protect and care for. We would build a mother-son bond, outside of what biology dictates. He had no one else to call mom and I knew how to do the job.

In some ways, I’d been practicing how to be nurturing and caring since the day Danny was born when I was 10-years-old. I taught Danny how to ride a bike and policed how much junk food he ate. I used to dress Ciara up in clothes and have a fashion shoot with her. As they got older, I gave them advice, some of which they asked for like whether to change jobs or information on what I knew of our family’s medical history.

For Jonathan, it was either me, taking him and accepting all of the complicated realities of doing so, from paternity tests to family court. Or it was foster care.

He’s 14 years old now, and it’s surreal to look back on his young life and not be proud of the sacrifices I made for him. Being an older sister to Danny and Ciara had given me some of the tools I needed, an understanding of what it meant to positively model a better love than what…

Nikkya Hargrove

I am an eternal optimist. I love helping people, writing and coffee— in that order!