Today is a tough day for me… it’s Father’s Day and my brother’s wedding day.
Father’s Day has always been a little hard for me. They don’t sell cards for dads who are often drunk and sexually inappropriate, but also taught you to love camping and how to tell a joke. Picking out a Father’s Day card for me was always torturous, a reminder of all the things a father should be but mine wasn’t. Except sometimes he was.
And that’s the hook. The unpredictability of the bad times keeps you on constant alert during the good times. It keeps you trying to win approval, to be good enough, say the right thing, be better, so that the good times will last. So he will be your dad again, like the dads they make the cards for, instead of the scary drunk guy who may or may not try to fondle you on your way back to your room from the shower.
Quite a few years ago now, my dad ran himself over with the car. He had forgotten to put it in park, and as it rolled down the driveway, he tried to get back in it but the door caught him and swept him under it. From that point on, his health and his mind deteriorated. There were falls that broke bones, confusion, fear, a nursing home, and eventually he died. I was fortunate to have made peace with all that my dad was or wasn’t before that happened, and I was able to care for him with compassion and kindness, both physically and emotionally, whenever I went home to visit before his death.
Now that my dad is gone, Father’s Day is hard for me for a different reason. I miss my dad. I am surprised by how much. The “thank you for all that you’ve taught me” cards that used to fill me with bitterness now seem completely appropriate, and I wish he were here so that I could send him one.
That powerful conflict of emotions that is my father’s legacy continues in my relationship with my brother. I love my brother, but I don’t like him very much. Two years younger than me, he was my very first friend. We played Matchbox cars together as children and went to Dead shows together as young adults. He was lost to me for years through an active addiction, but miraculously found sobriety and we reconnected when that happened. I was so happy to have him back in my life, that unfortunately I ignored that fact that he is an emotional bully. Phone calls were just as likely to end with me in tears as smiling. He can be the sweetest guy you know, or the meanest, often without warning.
And that’s the hook. The unpredictability of the bad times keeps you on constant alert during the good times. It keeps you trying to win approval, to be good enough, say the right thing, be better, so that the good times will last. So he will be your brother again, like the brothers they make the cards for, instead of the scary angry guy who may or may not bite your head off if you disagree with him.
Since my father’s death, my relationship with my brother has withered and died, too. We haven’t spoken for years, sharing only two texts in as many years. But he is still my little brother, and I love him very much.
And today is his wedding day. I will not be there, as I was not invited. That does not stop me from thinking of him today, and wishing him well in my heart. I hope that he is happy, and that the marriage will be good and strong. I hope that he is joyous and filled with love, and that his heart melts when his bride walks towards him today.
I hope also, that someday my brother and I will finally be able to crawl out from under my father’s legacy of emotional warfare and find peace with each other, before one of us runs ourselves over with the car.