Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dobby

Well, shoot.  I've put this off for nearly a year now.  I reckon it's time to write about it.

In January 2014 I wrote a "look back at 2013" post. One of the things I mentioned was my oldest brother and how New Years Day 2014 would be the seven-year anniversary of the last time he talked to me.  I wondered at that time if 2014 would be the year we'd finally speak.

It was.

This should have been big news, a cause for celebration and a follow-up post about how great it was to begin the process of mending our relationship.  But it was something I didn't share with many people because it turned out to be so anticlimactic...and left me in little doubt that my brother could not be less interested in having a relationship with me.

We may have gone another seven years without speaking or seeing one another were we not brought together by our grandmother's 100th birthday party in May 2014. Since he didn't come to our wedding, I knew the list of momentous occasions that would force my brother and I to be in the same room was whittled down to "funeral" and "really important birthday".  I was afraid it would be the former; I'm grateful it was the latter.

When I found out he would be at the party, my internal organs went very wobbly. I became more and more nervous in the weeks leading up to it and had no idea what to expect, but I knew two things for certain: (1) my grandmother's birthday was definitely not the time nor place to work out our issues, and (2) no way in hell was I going to cry or get upset in any way.  Man, it was hard to maintain composure considering how hard my heart was pounding and how many sleepless nights I'd spent thinking about what I'd like to say to him, but seriously, you guys, I was a freakin' zen master. Breathe in, breathe out...  

I didn't know what to expect.  Actually, I expected nothing.  But I hoped he would show some interest in talking to me, maybe ask what's going on in my life and tell me what's going on in his.  After all, we had seven years of catching up to do.  Lots of stuff happened to me in that stretch; no doubt for him as well.  I also hoped we would part on an optimistic note that left things open to more communication.  Unfortunately, neither of these things happened.

Now, for his part, I imagine that was a tough room to walk into.  My whole family (except mom -- long story) was gathered for my grandma's birthday, and he hasn't talked to ANY of us in years. Why, you ask?  Dunno.  Well, I committed some sort of "offense", but I couldn't tell you why the others get the silent treatment. In any case, he knew he was about to face a bunch of people that he's ignored, which had to be difficult, but my family members are nice, decent folks, and none of them betrayed grudges or hurt feelings, so any fears he might have had about some big showdown were probably quickly put to rest.

The way he walked in and casually greeted everyone like absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary was both admirable and infuriating.

It was such a weird mix of emotions.  Here we are, celebrating the birthday of a remarkable lady, and there's this 400-pound gorilla in the room.  Oh, god, not that I think my brother shouldn't have come to the party.  No, no, no.  On the contrary.  It was absolutely the right thing for him to do, and long overdue.  Our grandma's been asking me about him for years, so his being there meant a great deal to her. That was what mattered most.

As for my interaction with my brother, it was pretty...empty.  He shook my hand and made a couple of bland pleasantries.  I tried to stoke the fires of conversation by asking about his kids and work, but there was zero reciprocation, so, naturally, it fizzled out.  It was like being in a three-legged race with a partner who just wants to lie down and take a nap. After a minute or so of awkward silence, the words "well, I'm going to go get more iced tea" actually came out of my mouth.

One of my nephews came with him to the party.  I hadn't seen him since he was a baby and had to introduce myself to him like a stranger.  We all did.  That was fun.  And by "fun", I mean "totally messed up".  I felt sorry for the kid, in this room full of people that he should know but doesn't know at all.  We've all missed out on so much...  

After the party I found a little private nook with my stepmom and had a bit of a cry.  I really hate to admit that I expended any more energy on this than it deserved.  I've been striving to be as indifferent to it as my brother seems to be.  All that emotional buildup just came tumbling out, I guess.

There was nothing ugly about the interaction with my brother, but I finally understood once and for all that he does not wish to have a relationship with me.  You would've thought those seven (now eight-plus) years of not answering my e-mails and calls would have given me a clue, but I guess it took seeing him in person again to drive the message home. My stepmom said (kindly) that I needed to accept it and move on because there is nothing more I can do, which is completely true.  It's just...when a sibling dismisses you, it is a massive rejection.  It's not the kind of situation where you go "lalalala, I don't need him" and then it stops hurting.

What makes the whole thing really, really suck is that the reason we are in this situation to begin with is stupid and petty.  It started off in the usual way: a misunderstanding that grew into a fight.  It's the kind of conflict people all over the world have daily and somehow don't fall to pieces over. I didn't burn down his house or steal money or hurt one of his children, which I think are all justifiable grounds for estrangement.  We both said hurtful things, we were both far from perfect, but nothing so bad that making up should be beyond reach.

One of my friends lost her brother last year.  She said she would give anything to have one more day with him. Well, here my brother and I are, with all this time being squandered as though there was an endless supply of it, and I know there will come a day when he looks back on it with regret.  He is not a heartless man.  I truly feel sorry for him and would spare him that day, because I know it will come, but that old phrase about leading a horse to water comes to mind.

In case you're wondering about the title of this post, no, I'm not talking about the elf from Harry Potter.  Dobby was a nickname I came up completely out of the blue for my brother when I was little.  No one really knew what it meant, but it stuck.  It is that relationship with him I like to think of, like how I took to wearing his dingy old red baseball hat for a long period of time, not because I wanted a dingy old hat, but simply because it was his.  I looked up to him and we were buds.  Maybe there's a parallel universe somewhere where that is still happening.







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