Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brotherly Love

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my brother Bob recently, more so our relationship..or lack of  a relationship.

After a somewhat failed attempt at getting some of the family together for brunch I decided (at my therapists urging) that writing him a letter would be the best way to communicate how I feel.  I've sat down many times to write that letter but I can never get it going.  But when I decided to blog about it all the thoughts came flowing out.  I’m going to mail this to him before I share it publicly; if I even share it publicly.

First, the back story.  Mom would tell me the stories about how excited Bob was that he was getting a little sister (so they thought)  I was going to be named Michelle and he was going to sing that Beatles song to me every night with his guitar.
Growing up he and his friends were always playing and messing with me.  They would do things like throw me against the carpeted wall in my brother’s room, (it was the early 70's), throw me in the pool, put me in the clothes hamper and hold the lid shut. They would tickle me until I'd cry, they totally tortured me and I LOVED every minute of it.  I remember Tommy Huff, Armando Mendoza and a guy named Troy. Armando and I would do weird things like trying to burn bugs with a magnifying glass and stick needles in bug’s eyes. He would always point to Farrah's nipple on my poster and laugh.  He was as big of a kid as I was.

My brother is 13 years older than me and I looked up to him like any little brother would.  My brother was so cool.  He would wear velvet suits to prom and Ziggy Stardust masks, and play the guitar, he played baseball and did other sports, he even would get injured during sports....all the cool stuff.  He is also my half brother, we share the same mother, but for years he was always just my brother and everything was normal.  I remember when I found out he was my half brother I was so upset.  I wanted him to be JUST my brother.

With such a large gap in our ages, we had very different upbringings.  I know that my dad was very close to Bob.  Dad was very involved with little league and I think a coach for some or all of Bob's teams.  Dad was also VERY strict with Bob.  I remember a story about my brother having to sweep the driveway with a whisk broom as some kind of punishment.  There was one time when Bob moved out of the house and when he wanted to move back in Dad wouldn't let him and made him build a small room in the garage where he slept.  

My dad was working for Mothers Cookie's as a truck driver back then so I'm guessing he had extra time to do these things and be very involved in Bob’s life, whether it was good or bad.  When I was growing up Dad opened his own business and didn’t have the time to spend doing those kinds of things with me, I also didn’t have an interest in sports.  As I have written about before in another blog post, my dad wasn’t able to take me to my first little league practice my Aunt Goldie took me.  Dad showed up about halfway through practice, after I had already gotten hit in the head with a ball and was sitting over to the side watching everyone else.  Dad yelled at the coach but that was the end of my little league career.

I was rarely if ever disciplined by my father. I didn’t have chores, except feeding the dog and helping mom when she needed something.  I never had to sweep the driveway with a whisk broom. The worst thing I had to do was clean the garage with the help of my dad. 

I don’t think Mom and Dad had a lot of extra money for things when my brother was young.  As I have said many times before in this blog I was completely spoiled and got everything I wanted plus some. I know my parents were generous towards Bob later in those days when money was flowing but he was an adult then, I was just a kid and wearing designer clothes to middle school.  Sometimes I think there was a tinge of jealousy from my brother for the lifestyle I had as a child vs. what he had.  But there is always a trade off.  He got to spend time and received love from my dad, and my dad and I hardly saw each other. My dad didn't know how to deal with me either, I wasn't his sports loving son that drove a semi truck and knew how to “build stuff”.  I was "a damn sissy" to my Dad.

At some point my brother and I started butting heads.. A lot.  I felt at times he was acting as a disciplinarian even though I (still) had a mother and a father.  I remember the one of the worst points in my childhood was when I had to move in with him and Linda when I was in 4th grade, we were moving to Huntington Beach but our house wasn't ready yet but mom and dad wanted me to start the school year with everyone else.  I had no friends, no one to talk to at lunch or play with and my brother was always acting like "the boss of me” Mom and I always disagreed on how long I lived with them.  To me it seemed like months, mom said it was only a couple of weeks.  As I got older I don't think Bob knew how to be a big brother anymore.  I wasn't that cute little kid he could tickle and play with.  I guess he thought picking on me and bossing me around was what he was supposed to do.  I was already getting picked on plenty at school, but he probably never knew that.

I remember one time we had an argument when he was visiting us at our house and I went upstairs and kicked a hole in the wall I was so mad at him.  I didn't even feel "safe" in my own home; he was a bully to me. A big, tall, 13 years older than me big ol bully.

There was also Linda, my brother’s girlfriend.  I think they met when I was 2 years old so basically I have known her my entire life.  Linda would do so many great and fun things for me, actually for my entire family. When I was in pre-school I told everyone I knew Mary Poppins.  Linda dressed up Like Mary Poppins and came to my school. She made me a cardboard Bat Mobile (except it was spray painted gold)  She was a photographer and was always taking pictures at every event and made wonderful and very creative gifts for people in the family. Linda would take me places with her and we would do lots of fun things together.  We became so very close.  I called her my sister, which would confuse people sometimes when I would say my brother and sister were married.  My brother finally married Linda and had 2 beautiful kids that I adored and spoiled when they were young.

When I moved to San Diego from Orange County I moved into their house until I could get a job and move into my own place.  At that point their marriage was already struggling and eventually they divorced.  It really sucked because I felt like when they got divorced I also lost Linda and her entire family.  After knowing them all for so many years I became pretty attached to them.  We all supported each other and enjoyed each other’s company on special occasions, holidays and sometimes dinner together for no special reason at all.  It’s extremely rare if I see Linda or her family members these days.  I only know a hint of what caused their relationship to fail, and I have always blamed my brother for that.  To me it was because of him that Linda's family who I grew to love was no longer in my life.
I saw that side of the family at my nieces wedding and that was very brief because I had another wedding to attend the same day. I even feel pretty distant from my niece, I feel like I’m usually the one that is reaching out or sharing something with her, and that’s only on Facebook.  There are times that I feel like I have no family at all. I guess we aren’t as tight of a family as we used to be.  Mom was the glue that held us all together, but now that she’s gone, the pieces of the family are shattered. I have the great family photo we took at Ali’s wedding and that makes me smile.  I'm glad Linda and her sister Pam came to see Mom before she died.  That meant a lot to me.

I could sit here and list all of his faults and I could tell all kinds of stories but it’s not worth the time or energy to bring up some of these old things.  There became a point in his life that he was very reckless and very selfish. Mom would complain to me about things he was or was not doing (and Im sure she was doing the same with him about me) and it made me like him even less. Also some of these things are very personal and if I do decide to share this I don’t want to put ALL of his business out on Front Street for everyone to see. 

I do have to give him some credit for trying though.  One night I invited a guy I was dating over for dinner, it was awkward.  Trying to make conversation my brother asked Dale what kind of work he did.  Dale replied “Im a hair dresser”   ……….CRICKETS…………...  I think Dale cut my nieces hair in the kitchen that night.  But Bob never seemed comfortable with the “gay thing” but in his defense he was from a different generation.  Hell my generation was still figuring our own stuff; I couldn’t exactly blame him for not being comfortable or knowledgeable with the fact that he had a gay brother.

Then came an outsider… Looking back I realize what a tough spot my brother was in being in a relationship with someone no one in the family could stand to be around.  So I avoided them like the plague unless I was “forced” to be around her.  Finally he broke up with her, but that chick was a psycho. At times we tried to help her because it could possibly help Bob.  Mom would give her work with 2 different businesses she had, yet she stole from my mom and took advantage of certain situations.  I helped her out with a job so she could be in a work release program for some past legal issues she had.  After they broke up she became a monster, stalking, destroying my brother’s property. Mom had to get a restraining order.  I think the bitch knew better than to come to me with her bullshit, when she “worked” for me she saw firsthand the influential people I knew in the community.  I’d have her ass back in jail in a minute!
I cant put the blame on a third party for making Bob a bad person, just like I can’t give Manuela all the credit for making Bob such a better person now.  We are simply influenced by the people closest to us, the people we love.

We didn't really have much contact with each other except for holidays when Mom pretty much forced us all to get together for, but to me those were sad occasions.  We no longer had the huge family celebrations we used to have; at times it was just 5 of us. After that psychopath was finally out of our lives Bob became a completely different person.  He was caring, attentive to our mom and not so on edge all the time.  One day mom told me Bob would regularly stop over to her house early in the mornings and have coffee with her.  I was so happy to hear that, I know she enjoyed it very much too.

When Mom got sick we both stepped up to the plate and separately handled things the best we could.  Unfortunately the stress was getting to both of us and we had a huge blow up one day… Gay Pride weekend… It was my regular time off and time to have for myself, but of course I always had mom on my mind.  We had a scream filled telephone call where we both said some pretty awful things to each other.  I had been drinking…remember it was Pride and I could tell he had been drinking too.  That was one of mom’s complaints about the days he would come stay with her..  He drank too much.  Of course that pissed me off because I was with her 24/5 out of the week working my ass off to meet her every need and desire..  But that was also my choice and privilege because I didn't have a job so I had the time to be with her.  Bob had a full time job so he did what he could to help out.  But like many things in life…or in life according to Kurt, it wasn’t perfect.

At one point we thought it would be a good idea to have my nephew come stay with his “Grams” to help out.  He was very close to and loved his grandmother.  He was a good person to come fill in for a few hours when I needed to go to my own doctor’s appointments or do errands, etc.  But unfortunately that ended horribly too.  Sadly my nephew followed in my brothers earlier footsteps; they were like carbon copies of each other. Of course I blamed my brother for much of that.  Austin is stubborn and has made some very poor choices in his life that affected the entire family.  Maybe I was feeling self righteous but nobody else was getting through to Austin and I had pretty much lost respect for him so I “banned” him from coming back to his grandmother’s house.  He did get to come and say goodbye to her shortly before she died, seeing how he reacted to that situation, how emotional it was for him made me feel like the biggest shithead.  Im glad he got to see her one last time.
Yes he did something horrible, but his addiction made him do what he did.  It had nothing to do with his love for his grandmother.

As Bob and I have gotten older we have both mellowed out.  I also want to point out that I was NO angel.  I had my bad habits and made plenty of poor decisions in my life too.  Maybe I thought my poor choices weren't as bad as my brothers because they didn’t affect anyone else....or so I thought.  I don’t know how much about my own drug addiction my brother knows about, but he’s no dummy.  I’m sure he could see it during the really bad years.

Mom died on August 26th 2012.  I have seen my brother 4 times since then.  Once was the morning after she died.  He was very generous to me that morning.  The next time was when I went to his house to drop off some stuff from his childhood that mom had stored away, it was very awkward.  The 3rd time was when I met him in a parking lot to give him dad’s ashes to be spread out at sea together with moms. The fourth time was in the hospital after trying to end my life, I barely remember that.  All of those times occurred in 2012.  So it’s been awhile.

Over the years I have stopped blaming my brother for all our problems. Now I blame the circumstances of our lives.   We just don’t have a lot in common, he’s much older, and we had different upbringings, different lifestyles, after he graduated high school when I was only about 6 years old or so he was gone, he began his life.  Sure he was still around at times but all the tickle torture and throwing me in the pool days were gone, no more loving attention.  I felt like he was always pushing me away, emotionally or physically when I got a little older.

So right now its 4:30 AM on Wednesday, August 06, 2014.   I’m trying to figure out how to end this letter/blog post.  I’m not expecting any major changes to our relationship, when we talk on the phone there isn't anything to talk about really.
I guess sending each other birthday cards, Christmas cards would be nice.  Just a reminder that I still have some family out there. Hmmm see I guess that’s one thing that gets to me.  One of my best friends has my “will” and last wishes.  I've never done the forms for a medical directive because I don’t know who to put that burden on.

After almost 2 weeks in the hospital this past January (a non mental health issue) and a surgery in February that may have been Cancer, these are things I really started to think about.  How would my brother even know if something would happen to me?  Would my niece see it on Facebook then tell my brother?   How awful.  So I guess that was one of the main reasons I wanted to open up the lines of communication. As I have said time and time again is that my biggest fear is dying alone.. It’s sad, but I don’t see any great things happening in our future to celebrate.  I’m not getting married and having kids.  I would like it very much if Bob were to get married again to Manuela, but Im sure that would be pretty low key.  Its sad to think that our best years are behind us.

Oh well, I don’t know what else to say and I don’t want to turn this into a 6 page letter.

So there it is.

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