Friday, December 05, 2008

Grade School, Larry and Me

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.


Ruby and Miya in Exile said...

This was such a touching post- I can totally relate to the leaving people behind, the hurt, the guilt. Such a tough and complicated issue. I think you have made a much more amazing and dynamic life and family can still be a part of that. See you soon! -Ruby

Grace said...

Hi :)

The dynamics between syblings is so weird sometimes. Even though we haven't had a falling out, my own brother (who lives all of 20 miles from me) and I are not nearly as close as we were when we were kids. At 52 (me) and 50 (him), our lifepaths have taken us down very different roads. Because of that, our experiences have been different - and the way we relate to the world around us is different.

Frankly, although I love my brother, I don't like him very much as a person - he is no longer the kind of person I'd want to have as a friend, if you know what I mean. So I understand the feelings of "estrangement" some, that you speak of.

The other side of that is, we all grow up - and sometimes, we don't grow in the same direction, or at the same speed.

Maybe it's time to redefine family??? :) I know I have! (he's my only sibling)

conniewonnie13 said...

Hi Grace:)

It's true that my brother and I have grown into very different people, neither him nor my older brother are people that I actually like or would choose to be friends with, at least not at this time. Both of them in their own ways have become untouchable. It's just that I miss my baby brother... like I'm missing a part of myself. I wonder if he is too.

I wonder how, or if, we'll ever find a way through this estrangement. I feel like I have to try but I don't know what or where or when... He's been so angry for so long...

I'm not really sure that I like this aspect of adulthood, how we each have our own work... though I respect and understand the need for it. I wonder if I will ever feel better about my departure from the craziness or if I will just learn to accept it.

Thank you for your words, they have given me much to consider.

conniewonnie13 said...

The part of this that gets me is that I'm not sure if I'm just supposed to let go... We're not close anymore. It's as plain a fact as my not being 5 feet tall. Do I just accept this as the way it is or do I challenge the unhappiness and see where it leads? Maybe there is no going back/forward... but that seems way too sad to accept.
I know it was good to leave Chicago, and put some distance between myself and the family, of this there is no doubt. But sometimes this freedom seems to carry a high price.

My brain is full now. Thanks for the words:)