Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Relationship that wasn’t…isn’t.

My sisters (“Da” and “De”) and I began tossing about the idea of having a picnic for Memorial Day weekend. In the midst of our planning and discussions, it was mentioned if we should invite our older brother “R”. We decided to extend the invitation, with the three of us knowing it would be declined or at the most it would be received with a “we’ll see”. We have always invited “R” to family functions, or even to simple get-together dinners. In our adult lives, my sisters and I are only able to count on one hand the number of times “R” has actually joined us for anything. The three of us, on the other hand, have attended nearly every party, dinner, etc. that he has thrown and to which we were invited. So, through the luck of the draw (and we really did draw straws), it fell to me to extend the Memorial Day invitation.

I sent “R” an email, inviting him to the picnic and shared all the particulars and even asked for his input/ideas. (Why didn’t I just call? He will not answer his phone if he knows I am calling. Even after he dropped his cancer news upon us, he still won’t answer my phone calls.) A day later “R” replied with the stand-by “we’ll see”. If I could have laid a wager beforehand, I would have made some easy money with that response. Regardless, the invitation was extended.  All seemed well.

A few days later, I received a text from my younger brother, “N”, asking if I had seen “R”’s Facebook status/comment. Now, generally, I don’t pay much attention to someone’s FB status; I check it 2-3 times a week to keep track of my more distant relatives and friends. (Remember that “R”, myself and “N” share the same father; and notice the trend that we three boys use technology to communicate, instead of actual verbal skills?) I logged in, checked “R”’s FB status, and to say I was floored is a bit of an understatement. For ten paragraphs, he lambasted his family with claims of us being unsympathetic, uncaring, completely disinterested, etc. and he painted those of us who did not believe his illness at first as “worthless bastards”. His most harsh comments were reserved for our father, stating that Dad had not called “R” even once since his cancer diagnosis and that Dad did not love him.

Normally, I would not have responded to or commented on his status, because these are the types of games my brother has played our entire lives. But as my father does not use FB, however, and could not defend himself against my brother’s claims, I felt obligated to say my peace and spare my younger brother “N” from the trouble (he was about to be a new father himself, and did not need this hassle) and “N” was livid; out of the three of us, “N” is probably most like our dad and most protective of him. In my comment/response to “R”’s post, I explained to “R” how Dad calls me weekly to obtain information on “R”’s condition, because like my situation, “R” will not answer the phone when Dad calls. The phone will continuously ring, or be sent straight to voicemail. And there was a span of two/three weeks when “R”’s phone was not in service. But the point was that Dad had indeed made an attempt to contact “R”, either directly or through me. I further tried to explain to “R” how Dad does love ALL three of his sons, though Dad shows that love in different ways. I also explained that our initial doubts about “R”’s cancer were not unjustified – “R” has cried wolf many times in his life, and yes, he even claimed to have another terminal illness years before we lost Mom to renal cancer. “R”’s previous illness claim turned out to be a lie.

Perhaps I should not have thrown that out on FB as I did, but as “R” took it public first, it became fair game. “R” responded how he could not believe that we would think he would pretend to have cancer, after all he went through with Mom. All he with through with Mom? When I read that statement, I lost control and held nothing back. If I remembered correctly, and my sisters and other family members will back me on this fact, “R” turned his back on Mom when she became sick; he walked away and would have nothing to do with her. It broke her heart because Mom couldn’t understand why “R” would completely disassociate himself with her. Nearly every time I took her to the oncologist or to chemo treatments, Mom would ask if I had heard from “R”. Each time my answer was the same, and each time it ended in her tears. And I continued on, as the gates had now been opened.  I told him that if my reaction, or lack thereof, to “R”’s illness hurt his feelings, then I apologized; it was not my intention. But I reminded him of what I went through with Mom. (Or could it have been the first time he had heard it from me?) But I didn't turn my back on Mom; I was there when she needed me. Michel, my job, our home, our parrots…all of those things took a back-burner; my only concern became doing whatever possible to help Mom get well. I watched her transform from a strong-bodied, strong-willed woman to nothing more than a shell of her former self. I knew and saw things with Mom's cancer and her fight that neither “R”, “Da” nor “De” could have handled. I idolized that woman and watching her deteriorate the way she did took every last bit of emotional strength I had; every bit of strength to keep Mom from seeing the fear, horror, and pain I felt for her and to keep me going to be the person she needed to lean on.

And there it was – out in the open, at last. Obviously it wasn’t the best time or place to clear the air, but the “R” and I have always seemed to know one another’s trigger. But as you can see from my response, our age-old competitiveness and bitterness towards one another had reared its ugly head. “R” responded to my comment with yet another long diatribe – confirming what I have already known and felt inside – as to how he thought I was the ‘golden child’, most loved, etc., etc. The day I came home from the hospital as a newborn, he stated, was the single worst day of his life. I have always known of his contempt for me; “R” has never really kept that aspect hidden. There were times in our youth when he caused me physical harm, with intentions of much more, had he not been stopped by Mom or  some other responsible adult.  And then there are the emotional scars that “R” dealt me that I have kept buried where they belong. His hatred for me has only grown and festered as we have grown older, and in turn, my own bitterness towards him has festered.  After college graduation, when I came out as gay to our family at 22, unlike “R”, I was not initially disowned, my family was not disgusted by me, and for the most part, no one’s opinion of me changed. I didn’t lose any of my friends; I didn’t lose anything.  I believe that difference was the last straw for “R”; in his mind, further proving that I was ‘the golden child’. After that, no matter what effort I put forth in trying to have a functional relationship with my brother, it always proved to be fruitless.  He would accuse me of stealing his friends, stealing his boyfriends (as if…that’s another post entirely), conspiring against him, etc. Not until I met my partner Michel did I stop trying to make the relationship with my brother into what it wasn’t. One of the greatest things I have learned from Michel, is that a relationship takes two people working towards the same goal – a greater bond; and not working against it.

But according to “R”, as the ‘golden child’ I could do no wrong and in my 41 years, that attitude towards me has never changed.  As children, he would always tell me I was adopted or someone else’s kid, even that an uncle was my father instead of my Dad; he’d call me stupid, fat, ugly, unloved and unlovable. After a person continue to hear these sorts of negative things,  he/she begins to believe them. And I was no exception. “R” told me this horrible things daily, and as a young child, why should I have not believed my older brother? The older brother who was supposed to watch out for and protect me. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to have had that type of older brother.  So always fearing that “R” was right about me and that I could never be good enough for my parents to love me, if they truly were my parents, I chose the ‘goody two-shoes’ path – I obeyed the rules, made honor rolls & societies, participated in extra-curricular activities where an individual could excel, earned scholarships to college, graduated, found a long-term loving relationship; and perhaps I over-compensating along the way, just in case it was never enough. With each of these accomplishments, “R”’s reaction has always been the same ‘still playing the golden child’, ‘suck-up’ and ‘Dad always loved your best’. What “R” doesn’t know, up until Mom passed away, is that I always believed that Mom and Dad loved “R” best – the first born, who did everything wrong and went unpunished; the ‘prodigal son’, if you will; the one who walked away from his family, but his family was always there for him. I was after all, according to “R”, not even their real child.

Little did he or does he understand, that as a younger brother I looked up to him, I wanted to be like him (at least until my teenage years), even though I knew of his contempt for me. And “R” will never know of my fears or youthful jealousies of him. Three days ago he “de-friended” me on FB, and told our sisters that he wanted no further association with me. As far as “R” is concerned, “I don’t have any brothers.” And in that same statement, “R” has written off our younger brother (“N”), which actually doesn’t surprise me as “R” has never had anything to do with “N”. I suppose I am the lucky one, at least “R” acknowledged my existence with his own jealousy and contempt. I think “R” has only seen “N” twice in “N”’s 22 years.

Am I hurt by “R”’s statements of his true feelings? Yes, I am; I’d be lying if I said otherwise (though internally I had always hoped that it wasn’t hatred he felt for me). It certainly explains the empty, hollow feeling I’ve had in my gut these last few days. But right now, I think I can deal with “R”’s decision to cut me out completely; as I’ve said in a previous post, our relationship has been tenuous at best. And even though I said earlier that I had given up on having a good, healthy brotherly relationship with “R”, deep down inside I think there was always hope.

This post has become longer than I had intended, but the relationship it describes is itself, long and complicated. If any good can come from this entire situation, I suppose it is this – Saturday, my Rosary saw the light of day for the first time in six years, since Mom died. I spoke and God listened; now I can only ask and pray that I am strong enough to listen, when He speaks and calls out to me.

1 comment:

naturgesetz said...

It's really amazing that his resentment at no longer being the only boy in the family could have so distorted his take on reality. Ordinarily, one should not call another human being evil except as a joke, but the only other explanation I can think of for the behavior you describe is some form of insanity. (Does the term narcissistic personality fit, I wonder?)

Anyway, only time will tell whether he will choose to cut himself off from you and N permanently.

Meanwhile, your impulse to pray is a good one. I'm sure you can use a lot of support from the Lord right now. And if you can bring yourself to pray for him also, he clearly needs help for his problem too.

God bless you (and show him the light).