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?