Monday, November 23, 2009

Brothers

Great Uncle J. I never met him. I think the last time my grandmother saw him was long before she was even a mother herself. According to her he'd driven the family from New Jersey to Pennsylvania with his borderline lawbreaking antics. She always held a grudge that her father had to leave a good job with the railroad to come to Pennsylvania. She didn't speak to him, didn't know where he was. But faded photos in the top drawer of the attic dresser reveal they had some bit of contact after Jerry had gone to California. Did the mysterious Vera in a few of them send them on to my grandmother?



Her father. As far as I know, if he had brothers they never spoke to him after he married a Protestant. His entire Catholic family disowned him. In my china cabinet here are just two pieces of cut glass which crossed the Atlantic with his immigrant family and somehow entered his possession, later passing to my grandmother after her brother J. headed west and faded into the photo album.



Uncle T. My father's older brother. He is a Philadelphia lawyer. If you're familiar with the expression, yes...by most accounts, he lives up to it. He's still living but I haven't laid eyes on him since we buried my grandparents four months apart 18 years ago. Before that he and my father didn't speak for a decade over a bottle of wine. I have only a handful of shadowy memories of him from my childhood. The only remnants from him are the frayed edges of a rent family.



My brother. We were both still at home when he stopped speaking to me. His silence lasted 7 years. One day in the midst of the silence and out of desperation I asked, for the sake of Calypso, to borrow his car to get her to the doctor when she had a high fever and a choking cough. He handed me the keys. I thanked him deeply. When I later returned them he inquired about her. Months later we sat together until the wee hours of the morning at his request and were reconciled.



He is a man of few spoken words. He is a very solitary and reserved person. My children have grown up knowing him. They love him and know he loves them. When they were small they loved to play with him. As they've grown he has enjoyed being able to converse intelligently with them. My children and my brother seek each other out at family functions.



Recently, Calypso said she asked him why he didn't speak to me for so long. She was told what his rationale was as it related to a particular incident at the time. He added that he and I, as well as the other parties involved, all could have handled things far better than we each did respectively. He's right.



Regardless, of our personal history I am very thankful my brother and I have not repeated, for the duration of a lifetime, the family history of leaving behind only dead artifacts with no glad stories to warm the cold surfaces of paper and glass. I smile knowing my children look forward to seeing my brother; that he makes time to be a part of their lives even in his own way. I am thankful we've done better. I pray my own children never feel the iciness of of angry separation from each other. May that sort of legacy be what fades like crackled photos and shatters like glass.

16 comments:

jinksy said...

How sad it is when families drift apart. All it usually takes is for one half of a warring faction to say 'Sorry' - no matter if they believe it should be the other one! That one tiny word can open the floodgates of underlying love...and allow communiction to restart.

~Dragonfly~* said...

The reconciliation with your brother gives me hope. My brother and I have been slowly working our ways back to each other. I don't know if we'll ever return to where we once were (best of friends) but it would be nice to know that he might care should I leave this world unexpectedly and leave behind my children in need of love and family.

Jazz said...

That's so sad. I can't imagine being angry with my brother or sister for years

Craver Vii said...

Those are appropriate thoughts to usher in this year's season of family reunions. I have good relationships with most of my family, but unfortunately, there is one who I remain guarded about. It's difficult when I suspect someone is a con. You know the saying: Fool me once--shame on you; fool me twice--shame on me. Still, if I saw a measure of genuine repentance, I would be willing to coach my family towards reconciliation.

Desmond Jones said...

Oh, those family quarrels are so incredibly sad. . .

My aunt, my dad's sister, had some sort of falling-out with two of her brothers (my uncles) (or, more likely, with their wives). Which wound up impacting our family for several years, as they all couldn't be in the same room together. So when, at holiday times, we stayed at my aunt's house, that meant that we couldn't see two families of aunts/uncles/cousins.

(*sigh*)

I don't remember how long it lasted - at least thru my jr. hi/HS years. They did eventually patch things up, and we've been a whole family ever since, for which I'm grateful. . .

And Molly's family has become a complete soap opera of who's mad at who, and who'll come to the holidays, and who won't, if which other person comes, or doesn't. . .

Double (*sigh*)

You just come to realize (or at least, hopefully you do) that life is too short (and just possibly, eternity is too long), to stay mad at people you love. . .

S said...

Great Uncle J. I never met him.

Why Lime, yer startin' to sound just like a lovely old codger rockin' on his porch with a pipe n' tellin' ol' stories ta his gran'kids, all the while they sit cross legged on the porch around you, fascinated!

But yeah, I can relate to weird family relationships.....I am so glad you two worked that out.
:)

Desmond Jones said...

And, just parenthetically, there was a similar impulse behind my searching for my 'first mother', 24 years after she left my dad (and, in the process, my brother and me). I just decided that the connection was important enough to make the effort to restore it. . .

And similarly as re searching for my birth-parents - I came to feel that the possibility of making the connection was worth the effort of searching. . .

(And, as always, what I say about my own search is in no way meant to prod you into doing or thinking anything. . .)

Cricket said...

I think every family has a story (or two) like this. Strangely, I was working on a post that touches on similar issues when I took a break to come over here. Maybe it's something in the air. Have a great Thanksgiving, if I don't get back in between.

Cocotte said...

My brother has, what I believe to be, undiagnosed Asperger's. I only see him about twice/year. He prefers his isolation.

I'm glad you reconciled with your brother!

Ananda girl said...

Great that you were able to work it out. Sounds like you have a healthy love between you. Yay!

I have a sister that is unhealthy for me to be around... though it makes me sad that it had to be this way... it makes me glad that I told her she cannot be in my life. My family and I are so much better off that it is pathetic. Sometimes not working it out is the best thing.

G-Man said...

Lime heals all wounds!

Breazy said...

There is a lot of riff on my moms side of the family and I have always told my husband that if I ever treat one of my siblings the way I have saw my aunts and uncles treat each other then he needs to give me a big smarty smack. I am glad to hear that you all have reconciled.

Hope you are doing well!

San said...

Beautiful post, Michele. I believe most of us can relate in one way or another to the disappointment in broken family ties. When my grandmother died, back in the 70s, there was one brother of hers I'd never met, one which for some reason she was estranged from. Her children decided not to notify him of her death. I don't know exactly what had gone so horribly wrong, but it had. I need to ask my mother about this.

secret agent woman said...

We have a similar oattern in our family, of prolonged silences. Such a shame.

Jocelyn said...

I imagine this was tough to write about, as it involves 'fessing up to several people's culpability. I hope it felt therapeutic.

For this line alone: "the family history of leaving behind only dead artifacts with no glad stories to warm the cold surfaces of paper and glass"

...you should be proud of this post.

Hilary said...

How did I miss this post? I'm glad you linked to it. It took your maternal devotion to set aside your pride. I'm glad your brother made the next step. Stubbornness and pride can be so damaging and seven years is such a waste but thankfully, it wasn't that lifetime.