A few days ago Al asked me a simple, direct question about these pictures and it was all I could do to muster an answer without crying. She asked me why I posted these two particular photos of me and my brother since I never seem to put anything on this blog without an equally particular reason whether or not I choose to write about it. The brevity of my answer has been heavily on my mind. It's relatively easy to give voice to an aspect of this, or any relationship, but what's been on my mind is a persistent feeling of estrangement.
We were together most of our childhood which would seem obvious to anyone who's family has never been separated by divorce and craziness. (I didn't meet my older brother until I was about 9; he was someone I knew about and even named my goldfish after, but not someone who was part of my family.) It was always Larry and me no matter what was going on around us. We were buds.
It's not that we were inseparable but we definitely had some good times together. Dang! We'd get the giggles like no one else I've ever had the pleasure of giggling with. I always felt his little-ness and I was fiercely protective of him. The year these pictures were taken I punched a kid twice our size who'd been bullying Larry. Can you imagine what that kid looked like after I walloped him? I'm sure scrappy little me left quite a mark!
Even though we grew to be very different people I've always felt that we were close, until recently. I haven't really seen much of him or my older brother in the last few years although distance doesn't have to mean estrangement. The last time I saw Larry, which was briefly this summer, he spouted all this mumbo at me about my supposed feelings towards him, how I judge him to be a bad person, a bad father and that my living in Minnesota is an abandonment of him. Nothing I said to the contrary seemed to make any difference.
Mostly I think he was trying to tell me that he misses me and he wishes we would talk more and doesn't really know how I feel about him. What hurt me was what he said about my living in Minnesota as I'd decided years ago that if the distance between Minnesota (or anywhere) and Chicagoland equated the abandonment of my family then I would need to redefine what it meant to live my own authentic life. If I'd made peace with my decision why should his words have hurt me?
After thinking about this for a few days I realize that some part of me does feel that I've left him.