Saturday, May 17, 2008

Brotherly love

I have a brother, named Jay. He is three years older than I am.

We were raised by the same parents in the same home.
And that is where the similarities end.

When we were little, we were very close. In fact Eva Rose looks so much like me and Shepherd resembles Jay, so when I see them play sometimes, I get a teary sense of deja vu.

Something happened as we grew older. Different personalities, different likes and dislikes. Different reactions to a complex and dysfunctional homelife, exacerbated by grief after my grandmother's death. We drifted apart.

Far, far apart.

By middle school, I was insecure, although you might not know it because it was masked by a veil of false confidence. I dreamed of a different life, and strove to present that picture to the shallow pool where I swam, watered by designer labels and caring what kind of car your parents drove. Then in high school, the ever present right-beneath-the-surface anger manifested itself in sardonicism and blatant disgust for most authority.
I am sure I was a pure delight to be around.

My brother struggled as well, with school, with a horrible case of acne, with always being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, and the consequences that ensued. However, Jay had talent. Incredible talent. He could play the guitar like you couldn't believe and channeled the spirits of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny Winter through his fingers. He insulated himself from the world with his music and a good bit of pot.

We had absolutely nothing in common, and could barely stand to be the same room together.

I remember during one of Jay's several stints in rehab, he told me how much it hurt him when I asked him to go to his room when my friends came over, because I was embarrassed of him.
That broke a little piece of my heart off that is still missing.

Hurt people hurt people.
Especially annoying, long haired, music blasting, pot smoking brother people.

Our relationship remained complicated throughout adulthood. I reached a major milestone when I crossed the line from being embarrassed of him to being completely proud of his amazing talent. I rounded up big groups of my friends to see him play his gigs in local bars or at Mardi Gras in Galveston, or at the Blues Festival in Houston. I didn't want to hide him - he was totally cool. And I was his awestruck little sister once again.

And then he would stand my mom up for lunch on Mother's Day and I would seethe at his irresponsibility and vow to never talk to him again.

This went on for awhile. Then something happened.

I had a baby.

Jay loves babies.

And my babies love, adore, pine for, swoon over, their Unka Jay.

Today Unka Jay, who has no children, came to visit. He brought a monster truck hat for Shep that now rests on his sleeping head. He cleaned up the piece of sheetrock that Shepherd and Eva Rose had found and demolished in the backyard. He snuck them Now or Laters. He fixed the broken drawer in the playroom. He let Maggie sit on his guitar.

Within about twenty minutes of his arrival he managed to use every contraband word that Shep has ever gotten his mouth washed out with soap for - butt, dummy, stupid. He swore the big one - the commandment breaking one - several times and apologized in his long Texas drawl.

And then we ate fajitas. And then Shep told Jay that he was his best friend and that he was special. He was right.

And I sit here tonight, thinking of how deeply and sadly and complicatedly I love my brother. Because, despite everything in our past, despite how much we have hurt each other and disappointed each other over the past thirty years, one thing is true. My brother loves my children deeply.

And, as someone once said,
deep love covers over a multitude of sins.

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