Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Brother

Disclaimer: I usually try to make my blog posts upbeat and chipper. However, I'm not very upbeat and chipper right now. In fact, I'm down-right frustrated, angry and "so over it". The "it" to be described in future posts. I'm still gonna have a lot of happy posts b/c overall, my life is great and I am beyond lucky. I'm just afraid that all this frustration has got to get out somewhere, and that somewhere is here.

I have a younger brother, born about 4 years after me. My mom has these great stories of me being so protective of him when he was first born. [I guess when he'd cry I'd go to her all upset and say 'Don't make my brother cry!', like I was afraid she was hurting him or something.] And as kids, we got along well. I'd play GI Joes with him, he'd play Barbies with me and we'd watch WWE wrestling together. Sounds crazy, but we had a lot of fun.

Somewhere along the way though, things changed. I was the 'easy child', always did what I was told, did well in school, didn't need a lot of boundaries because I was too afraid of disappointing anyone to actually try and break any rules that were out there. My brother, however, tested boundaries and while he did okay in school, he was always compared to his 'older sister'. My mom did a great job raising us, but my dad wasn't always around. I think my brother missed him, missed having a male figure in his life. I'm sure that was never easy. But I didn't think like that when I was a teenager. Instead, it was just easier to say that he was the one with issues and it wasn't my problem. We started fighting. Nothing physical, but the attitude and nasty words we threw back and forth to one another was nothing short of ugly. And it got worse and worse til I went off to college. And then we just basically stopped talking.

I went about my business, doing well in school, loving the freedom college allowed me, while my brother stayed at home and continued to rebel against everything and everyone. It just drove us farther and farther apart. The few phone conversations we had always ended poorly. We just didn't see eye to eye on anything. I'd try to give him advice and he shrug it off as his 'know-it-all' older sister just trying to be the smart one again. I was so tired of the drama that seemed to constantly surround him that talking to him was a burden.

Everything came to a head about 5 years ago. I was home visiting my mom, he still lived there. I inadvertantly hurt his feelings and he just lost it. The details aren't important, but after a vicious verbal exchange I just knew that our relationship had been damaged beyond all repair. It broke my mom's heart. She wanted her kids to be close and to be able to depend on each other. I knew that we'd never get there.

Apologies were later exchanged, but it was just words. We were both still very hurt by what was said. Sometimes it's easy to forgive, but that forgetting part is much more difficult. We still didn't really talk and the few times we did, it was strained at best.

My wedding approached and I asked my husband to have my brother in the bridal party, which he gladly did. Even that did little to help mend the fences between us. The wedding pictures show a nuclear family all smiling and happy. The reality was, in a crisis, my brother would be low on the list of the people I would call first.

Around this time, my grandfather started getting sick and going downhill. He lived with my parents and my brother was still living there, too. The strain of the situation was wearing on my mom, and my brother would sometimes call with updates, but again, the conversations always ended with both of us exasperated with the other.

And then, one night, it all changed.

My brother and I had just chatted and like always, the conversation didn't end well. A few minutes later though, my mom called. She had just talked to my brother. He mentioned that his initial reaction to something I said that he didn't agree with was to yell at me. But instead, he was quiet and just thought about it for a minute. And realized that maybe I had a valid point. And in that instant, everything was different. I just knew it.

I quickly got my mom off the phone and immediately called my brother. We both knew that the conversation would be different this time. It was. We talked for 3 hours, never once raising our voices. There were a lot of tears, a lot of sincere apologies, a lot of explanations of anger and frustration that had been building for years. And that night, in October 2006, we began truly rebuilding our relationship.

God works in mysterious ways because the timing couldn't have been better.

In December 2006, my dad dropped a financial bomb on my mom 6 days before Christmas that would rock the entire family. In January 2007, she filed for divorce. In February 2007, my grandfather (my mom's dad) passed away.

And through it all, my brother and I talked and cried together and screamed together and supported one another when we both knew no one else in the world could be better for the task. Not spouses, not friends, not even parents.

I'd like to say that I would have gotten through the last year okay without him. But that would be a lie. I think my brother would say the same thing about me. We have not only mended our relationship, but we're closer than we've ever been. We don't always 100% agree with one another and sometimes we still get frustrated with the other person, but we're human. The bottom line though is we respect each other. We have the other's best interest at heart. We look out for each other. My mom is beyond ecstatic.

The only downside to all of this, is that there has been so much family stuff that we've been dealing with, that we haven't gotten to know each other as much as we'd like. My brother commented last night that he still doesn't really know what I do on a day to day basis (and vice versa) because so many of our conversations are just about damage control within the family. This year, I'm making an effort to change that.

I can't put into words how grateful I am that we found a way to start over. To truly deal with the past and then put it away. I love him a lot and am so happy to have him as my brother.

14 comments:

wan-nabe said...

aw, amber. i'm really happy that you two have managed to finally come together and build a much stronger, happier relationship than you had before.

since i knew the backstory already, i was a little scared of where the post was going, based on that disclaimer. you scared me! :)

Kate said...

I don't believe that all relationships can or should be saved, but I'm very happy that things are working out with your brother. It's kind of exciting that you're going to start getting to know him - like meeting a new friend you already have so much in common with.

Leslie said...

Personally, I really appreciate posts like this, because life is not always happy. So feel free to post on these kinds of subjects, because I am happy to read them.

I can relate to your story more than I'd like and would like to say that I think it's great that you and your brother are repairing your relationship. Family is so important.

dapotato said...

i love this entry, and i am so glad you guys are [re]building a relationship.

it's also making me think i should reach out to my own younger brother better. we've definitely been growing farther apart as we've been growing up.

Nanette said...

First, I think it's perfectly fine to not be upbeat and chipper all the time. I know from experience that it can get tiring and sometimes you need to let your serious side come out.

Second, you have no idea how much I relate to your relationship's early years. The know-it-all sister, the comparisons, the overall different approach to life despite growing up in the same environment -- eerily familiar. While I haven't had a breakthrough with my brother, we're slowly making our way there. Your post gives me hope. It was like reading a hug.

Aline said...

Oh me and my older brother are you and your brother circa "Your worst period ever".

But your post gives me hope... though I wouldn't even know where to begin.

And I shake my head at the thought wanting to fix it.

So know that you are blessed Amber!!

R said...

Look at that! You have relaters. And I am definitely one of them where my sister is concerned. Almost the same story-grew up in the same house but somehow so different, compared to me, the easy vs. difficult child w/issues, drifting, nasty fights, vicious words...well, you know the stuff that happened around my wedding...we haven't gotten to the BFF thing and I don't think we ever will, but it's refreshing to hear someone is doing better with it all.

Anyway, tell it like it is. Others who share your experiences will appreciate it, and the ones that don't will respect you for keeping it real. Love ya!

Mrs. Shorty Cake said...

I swear you've just blogged my entire life with MY little brother too! Its so crazy how as I was reading along, I was thinking the exact same way. We're still working on it, but its not always easy as I'm sure you know :/

Trisha said...

This is basically me with my younger sister, too :) I'm glad you guys are able to work on your relationship and are becoming closer.

ssinca said...

I got a little teary-eyed reading this post. I'm so glad things are getting better - family is really important, but it's definitely not easy.

WeezerMonkey said...

Goddamnit. I'm in tears. I can't imagine not having my brother. I love him so much. I hope things stay good for you.

Winnie said...

This post reminds me that I need to make more effort in building a relationship with my younger sister. Thanks A.

Jen said...

I love this post. I am so glad you and your brother mended things. I would be lost without my sister. Thanks for sharing this.

Kay said...

that's great that your relationship is in the rebuilding stages. It's worth all the efforts when it comes to family