Friday, August 20, 2010

Father and Brother

Yesterday, August 19, was Dad's birthday. Hard to think of it now without thinking of his spoiled relationship with John. He finally gave up on my brother - not that I blame him. The frustration of not being able to understand him when combined with the frustration of not being able to guide him into a productive life, even as defined in the most expansive and generous terms, finally led Dad to throw up his hands. I can't really blame him, though of course I can. How can you give up on your son? How can you not give up?

Somewhere there is a level of acceptance - this is the life he chose - that is very hard to come by because it verges on irresponsibility. I suppose you can't really call it irresponsibility when your son is in his 40's. I don't know what I would do, especially in the light of my own conflicted role in the struggles my own sons are undergoing.

I have two models:

Dad was never very close to me - middle class me - so how can anyone expect that he would be in a relationship characterized as "close" with John? He was Canadian born and embodies the reticence of his era's males. I need to fight to be more open with my feelings toward others, and I don't often succeed.

My wife Kim is the other model. She has a very open and helpful relationship with each of her two kids. It's one I envy and admire, but I can't bring myself to imitate it with my kids. Don't know why.

In the book I mention that there is a "John" living in me as an alter ego, where he expresses in his life a side of me that I have pushed under. I wish I had fully realized that before he died. I wish Dad had realized and accepted that before he died. Reading fiction I often find alter egos whose lives I can live at no cost to my own. How can we do that with family, with our brothers?

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