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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Brother Rob -- I got the news last night that my older brother Rob had died. The funeral is today, although I won't be going. I'm recovering from pneumonia, I am needed at work, and most significantly, I hardly knew the man.

There's a lot of complicated history in my family, but the truth is I only remember seeing Rob three or four times in my entire life. He graduated high school the year I was born, was fighting in Vietnam by the time I could walk and was estranged from our family before I had to shave. I literally remember the day he came home from the war (I was probably around 6), the time our parents drove us from Florida to New York for the birth of his daughter (1978 or 1979, I think -- also the trip where I got a firsthand look at a real comic book store for the first time), and I remember the last time I saw him, an awkward Christmas Eve visit in, I think, 1985.

I remember he tried to reach out on that night, but I was really young and really stupid and really wrapped up in my own adolescent drama by then, and that ended up being the last time I ever saw him. I couldn't tell you much about him other than that he was left pretty angry by his experiences in Vietnam, and, I am sure, rightfully so. He was also angry at my mother because of some pretty fucked up family politics, and although I never took a side in their particular issue, I always (uncharacteristic of me) saw both sides of this particular issue.

My family -- by which I mean the one I was born into, not the one I created with my wife -- was fucked up beyond belief. I'd write more about it now, but it's exhausting just thinking about the tragedy, the lies and cover-ups and broken relationships. I think of that family as six people, more or less -- my parents, my older brother Rob, my older sister Deb, myself and my younger brother Wil. Of those, only the last three are still alive, and like Rob, I think we've all chosen to focus on our own lives and priorities rather than invest in the lies and bullshit of our parents.

But when your wife calls you during dinner to tell you your brother is dead, well, I have to admit that it does give one pause. Hard not to reflect on whatever barely-there relationship you had. Oh, one other memory of my older brother; he never knew he had been adopted. Everyone in the family, me included, eventually knew this, but to the best of my knowledge he never knew.

When our mother died in 1994, my sister wrote her obituary that appeared in the newspaper, and she chose to refer to Rob in the obit as "an adopted son," so he most certainly discovered he was adopted by reading about it in his mother's obituary in the newspaper the day after she died, he not having seen her for a decade or more. I remember feeling bad for him on that day, although I haven't thought much about him since. In his obituary, I learned that his daughter has had a child of her own and that she and her family live far away, in Pennsylvania.

Good for them; you can kind of see why they'd want to.



Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Allow me to wish you condolences, regardless.
Families are difficult. I was reading something in Salon just this morning: http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=52525&source=newsletter
I think my family was messed up. Then I read that piece or pick up on allusions you're making. I think mine's not so bad.

02 December, 2008 13:12  

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