Thursday, December 14, 2023

Brotherly Love?

Expecting siblings to love one another is rather optimistic.

I took a piss on my dipshit brother the other day (the other one, not the stinking hippie) and it may have come across as harsh.  Some folks have lifetime relationship with family members and get along - even go into business together!  Wilbur and Orville Wright, for example - which one was the Steve Jobs and which one was the Wozinak (who did all the real work)?  We may never know.

My own relationship with my siblings varied from friendship to competition to fighting to hatred to abuse to neglect.  And this is somewhat normal - the "happy family" where everyone gets along and meets for Thanksgiving year after year, is sort of an anomaly.

And maybe this started with my Grandparents. My Dad never got along with his Dad, who was a violent drunk.  He and his sister were pals, though. By the time I was born, Grandad had died of lung cancer, so I never met him.  My Mother always had an antagonistic relationship with her Mother, who, as a home economics major, judged my Mother harshly on her housekeeping skills.  Ahh.... Moms and Daughters - the original dysfunctional relationship! She had a brother - my Uncle - but you would never know it.  They hated one another, for reasons unknown.  Later in life, while drunk, she would accuse him of molesting her as a child.  Whether that is true or not, I do not know.

One of my earliest memories (and sadly, I tend to remember everything I should forget and fail to remember important stuff) was of my eldest brother playing tricks on me.  Being an older brother has got to suck, quite frankly.  You are the golden boy, the center of attention, and then this little shit comes along and gets away with bloody murder. Not only that, you want to hang out with your teenage friends, smoke stolen cigarettes, talk about girls, and maybe sneak a beer or look at a purloined porno mag stolen from Dad's stash behind the furnace.  A little bratty brother tagging along is going to ruin that.

So I never "hung out" with my oldest brother - we never bonded.  Worse yet, we were told never to go into his room, as it was sacrosanct.  I am not sure why - maybe because he was jerking off in there or something.  But he had a weird privacy thing and really didn't want his younger brothers invading it.  And quite frankly, I was a little brat - prone to temper tantrums.  The few attempts he made at bonding did not end well.  We were strangers and still are.

When I was about three of four, that brother decided to play a trick on me.  He announced he was a magician and could teleport from one place to another.  My other brother and I shared a large bedroom over the garage with two closets with sliding doors.  He went into one closet and told me to close my eyes and when I opened them he magically appeared in the other closet!   I was mystified of course, being only three.  But he thought it was the height of hilarity and roped my sister and other brother into this.  My earliest memory of my elder brother was of him mocking me.

It didn't end there. I must have been three or four and we were watching our black-and-white Sears television (the only one in the whole house, $99 on sale) and a Western was playing. The good guy took a shot and a bad guy fell off his horse and died.  My brother told me, in all earnestness, that the actor playing the bad guy actually died in order to make the movie and anytime someone dies in a movie, the actor actually dies.  Yea, stupid, I know, but it ain't hard to fool a three-year-old and who gets their jollies fooling a toddler?   Sick people is who.

Sadly, that would not change over time.  He went away to prep school, as did my sister, as they were "having problems" in public school. I am not sure what that was all about.  But throughout my life, no matter what I did or achieved, it was subject to ridicule by my eldest brother.  Could it be jealousy?  After college, he went to live on a commune in an unheated barn, listening to the thoughts and commands of the "guru" who ran the place. One year, he sent us a cassette tape of him playing the guitar and singing old-timey folk tunes.  It was a pretty good tape, but my father was livid. "Four years of prep school and four years at Middlebury and he's living in some goddamn barn and playing the guitar!  He's 25 years old for chrissake!  Why doesn't he get a job!"

So when I turned 18 and went to work for General Motors, that had to sting. After all, as the youngest in the family, I was always smaller, dumber, and viewed as a lesser entity. Suddenly his youngest brother has a job and a pension plan - not to mention health insurance and a company car.   It was after that that he decided to go back to school and get another degree - and another.

But in the meantime, he had to run down what I was doing as "selling out to the man" or some such nonsense. Success was not rewarded in my family - particularly by my siblings.  When I was accepted into law school, he must have blown a fuse.  It is funny, but when I was in law school, my brother was still dicking around figuring out what to do with his life - and bear in mind, he was nearly a decade older than me.  I was at my parents' house and they were imploring him to go to law school.  "We'll pay for law school!" they said.  I cleared my throat, "Um, hey, I'm already in law school!But somehow that didn't register or count to them.  My parents helped pay for some books and such, but the majority of law school I had to pay for with student loans.  That didn't stop my parents from telling my siblings they "paid my way through law school" which was totally untrue.  This later created a division in the family.

Needless to say, if working for GM was "selling out to the man!" then becoming a Patent Attorney was even worse - they just assumed at that point that I had turned Republican.  They would only be happy if my life was somehow lesser than theirs, that if I was struggling and not doing as well.  And since they were not doing very well, it was hard to not outstrip them.  It wasn't my fault they were fuck-ups!

I met Mark about that time and we've been together for 36 years now.  Regardless, whenever I hear from my brother, he says, "Are you still with Mark?" as if it was some sort of one-night hook-up and that he didn't expect to last.  This guy is rooting for me to fail.  Fuck him.

So, no, I don't hang out with him.  We have nothing in common, and his idea of being a "big brother" seems to be limited to running down whatever I am doing and "correcting" my thinking.  On the other hand, while I don't like him, personally, I am glad he got his "Doctor" degree and a nice job with the University.  He done well, in the end.

My other brother was closer in age to me, and as I noted, for much of our early lives, we were sort of shunted into a communal bedroom.  I should have read the writing on the wall early on, but like most people, I was sucked into this idea that "family is everything" and your parents and siblings "have your back" instead of stabbing it.   I should have realized this the day my brother destroyed my pink jeep - at age 4.  Yes, I remember everything - it is a curse.

I wish I could say it got better, but it got worse.  Again, being an older brother (or sister) sucks, as you are expected to babysit (for free!) your younger siblings. You want to hang out with your own peer group and baby brother hanging around is just buzz-kill. My other brother and I did do a lot of hobbies together for a while, but we also fought like cats and dogs.  We got home from school around 3PM and Mom and Dad didn't get home until five or six.  We would watch the old black-and-white television in their bedroom (our only television!) which played after-school shows aimed at kids, or old war movies on "Films and Four."  We also beat the crap out of each other.

I am not sure what we fought over - or whether there was any real reason we fought.  Mostly it was him mocking me and me getting mad in response, as I recall. My parents' king-sized bed became a professional wrestling ring (before professional wrestling was popular) and we would just pound the crap out of each other.  Another game we would play was to chase each other around the house or try to lock the other one out of the house.  After a typical wrestling match, the mattress on my parents' bed were on the floor, the box springs were awry and the bed frame had collapsed.  Sheets, blankets and pillows were wadded up on the floor.

We would hear a car in the driveway and suddenly our feud would be put aside and we would reassemble the bed in minutes before we heard a key in the door.  My Dad would always grumble about how that "cheap mattress" was so lumpy and they kept buying new mattresses - not realizing that we were destroying them as quickly as they bought them.

I guess we kind of grew out of that phase.  I noted before that my sister thought she was "doing us a favor" by turning us onto pot when I was 13 and my brother was 16.  Marijuana is like that for some people - they make it into a religion.  "If only..." they say, "...everyone got high, the world would be a better place!"  The Catholic Church says the same thing about Catholicism and the Muslims say the same thing about Islam.  "If only..."

Predictably, our grades started to suffer and we became more anti-social.  My brother, who was going to become a rocket scientist, dropped all the "hard" courses in Math and Science and concentrated instead on English Literature.  I kept on with the science, but smoking pot and calculus don't really mix.

My brother started hanging out with some odious "friends" and got into all sorts of minor (and major) legal troubles.  He started this thing - for about a year or so - where he would call me the worst sort of names, to the point where it was alarming my otherwise uninterested parents.  He started stealing my paper route money, too.  Brotherly love!  He's got my back - or a knife in it.

Needless to say, when I turned 18 and went to work for GM, he had just graduated from college and, like my other brother, was basically unemployed.  Rubbing salt into the wound, my parents gave him my old car - he was getting hand-me-downs from baby brother, instead of the other way around!

As you might imagine, we started drifting apart.  He moved away and I had moved away and we moved on with our lives.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Family members can turn into strangers over time, and sometimes they end up being people you'd rather not know.  My brother started going off on politics, usually after a few bong hits, and then he scared me by getting into guns.

That is the weird thing about marijuana - the stereotype of a pot smoker is someone who is all hippy-dippy and left-wing and a peace nut.  But as experience has shown, people can smoke pot and be MAGA Trumpers and Qanonsense believers and "sovereign citizens" and gun nutz - and see no disconnect between these different aspects of their life.  So long as they are only throwing black people in jail for possession, it doesn't affect me, right?

It is like the guy who owns the Columbia restaurant chain in Florida (a tourist trap, sort of, that serves Cuban cuisine).  He voted for DeSantis, but then was raided and had dozens of employees deported - and was fined $500K for hiring them.  Surely those laws don't apply to me, right?  The "Pick Me!" mentality.  He thought he was "one of the good ones."

My brother hasn't turned into a MAGA Trumper or Qanonsense believer - to the best of my knowledge.But then again, I never thought he would end up buying guns, either - he used to rail about gun violence and how we needed more gun control.  People change over time - it is sad, but true.

I suppose the pièce de résistance was when he had a new will drafted for my Dad, only weeks before my Dad died, writing me out of the will and appointing himself as executor.  He had my back - with a knife in it!  I suppose I could have challenged the will, as it was poorly drafted (he should have left me a dollar - but instead failed to mention me at all) and Dad was halfway into dementia when he signed it. The fact the will was drafted weeks before he died wouldn't have helped in court, either. But an attorney friend of mine put it bluntly, "What's the point?" - and he was right. Better to just walk away.

I read about these families who are all buddies with one another.  "My Dad and I are best friends!" they crow.  "Me and my brothers get together every year for a fishing trip!" another says.  And I look on in wonderment - don't you hate each others guts like normal people do?  I am being facetious of course, but it seems more like an outlier than the norm.  You read all the time about families that squabble over money or jealousy or even murder each other - or wipe out the whole family!  Who are these "normal" people who do get along, anyway?

Well, I suspect it has to do with family history and geography. If you live near your parents and siblings, you see each other more often and don't grow apart as one might do if you live on opposite sides of the country.  I suspect the parents have a lot to do with it as well - including their relationship with their parents and siblings.  My Mother hated her brother and we rarely saw him, so maybe that sent a message to us as kids about family relations.

Thus, too, is the idea of the "black sheep" of the family.  Every family, it seems, has one family member they all want to hate on.  And often this turn in the hot-seat is passed on from family member to family member.  My eldest brother, when he went to live in the commune, was the "bad boy"for a while, until my other brother usurped him with his legal troubles. They finally decided to name the seat in my honor and retire my jersey, hating me for.... being successful, I guess.

The painting above is of Cain and Abel - the first murder in the history of the Bible (but not the last!). Cain slew Abel apparently out of jealousy - that Abel's offering of a sacrificial lamb (you know, that Old Testament shit!) was accepted by God, but God told Cain that his offering of crops was not up to snuff!  Try again, Cain!  So he committed the ultimate sacrifice - and beat his younger brother to death.  Brotherly love!  Right there in the Bibble!  And only one generation removed from the Garden of Eden.

Maybe it is just me, but it seems the Bible is saying something here - don't trust your siblings!  Some folks argue that families need more religion in their lives, but I am not sure that would have worked for Cain and Abel.  Most brothers are like Cain and Abel, I'm afraid.

But if you do have a sibling or parent who is "your best friend!" either you are really, really lucky or you need to move out of your parents' basement and get a real job. For most of us, in this modern age, being successful means leaving the family compound and starting lives of our own. Our agrarian ancestors may have all lived together like The Waltons, but even then, only the eldest son was expected to inherit the family farm (or family business) and the other members of the family were either married off (if they were girls) or were expected to find another way of making a living.  It was a recipe for fratricide, quite frankly, and more than one younger sibling would stage an accident so they would be next in line to inherit.

Some people waste a lot of time and energy trying to "fix" family relationships.  I noted before that my Sister wanted to "understand her relationship" with Mom, and used up a good portion of her short life this way.  "I have vacation time coming up!" she says, "Let's stage an intervention for Mom!"  I replied, "Sounds like a shitty vacation to me!"   But I get where she was coming from - society tells her that she should have this idyllic family relationship like in the sitcoms, but it never happened.  In fact, it was horrific - and she never saw the worst of it, leaving home before Mother really broke down.  Maybe that was the difference - I didn't see anything that could be "saved" nor a person that wanted saving.

And that's the point, I guess. My siblings want to live their own lives and I want to live mine. My brothers may think I am a bourgeois "sell out" for getting a job and trying to better myself.  But they have to live their own lives and I have to live mine.  We all do. And in a modern industrial society, this often means we move off in different directions and live different lives.

There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I suspect it is pretty much the norm these days.  Sadly, some do-gooder know-it-alls try to tell other people that their lives should be like a Hallmark movie or a Norman Rockwell painting - and that somehow they are to blame for not making this happen.

Don't believe it - for a minute!