Monday, February 14, 2011

Where Were You?

As a child I thought I would always be an "only-child". Sometimes I wondered what would it be like if I had older siblings. Would they be as good to me as my mother's siblings, who were between 16 and 19 years older than me? Or, would they be in "sibling-rivalry" with me?

When I learned that I would, in roughly 9 months, have a half-sibling, I was very happy. No longer would I be an "only-child", and I would not always wonder. It's more than 20 years later now, and my half-brother Danny lives with me now in Atlanta. We've had a lot of good times over the past couple of years, after I had lived away and gone to college in Atlanta while he grew up with our mom and his dad, my stepfather. It's very hard to imagine him not being a part of my life.

I actually have two other half-brothers who live in New York state. Unfortunately, I've been kept a secret from them my father and stepmother. This causes much pain to me.

But, lately, its causing more than pain. It's causing guilt. I feel a natural responsibility and love toward my two other brothers, one of whom I lived with briefly when he was an infant.

I feel guilty because some years ago I got a letter from my father with his resume in it along with a computer disk of a web page he had built while taking a course at work.

On his resume he mentioned that he was married with two children, David and Jeffrey

Somewhere in the white space I expected one simple sentence to read, "His older son Josh lives in Atlanta." But, it was nowhere to be found.

This caused me considerable frustration and for quite sometime when I visited New York and my family asked me about seeing my dad I refused to even discuss it.

I feel now like I should have tried sooner to reestablish contact, as if I had done that then perhaps my other brothers would not have gone so long without knowing me yet.

Logically, I don't believe it's my fault, but that doesn't mean I don't wish I had done more.
I have painful thoughts of them asking me, "Where were you?"

I am still a patient person, perhaps to the point of fault. I believe it will be best for my father and stepmother to tell my brothers this directly, rather than forcing myself to be known, even though I do have contact info that would allow me to do so.

But, the feeling in my soul is welling up that my brothers are being denied their own birthright and the chance to have a friend, me, who could be to them what people like my aunt Kara was to me before she passed away and like my uncle Kevin and aunt Kelly still are.

The feeling is starting to wear on me that all three of us are being too selfish and self-protecting here and not being kind to my brothers. However, this is just my feeling, and I have not yet had a chance to speak directly with my stepmom about these feelings. I very much want to achieve understanding as to why she does not want the truth to be known and for the three of us brothers to have relationships with each other.

To place this in context, I have to mention the passing of my aunt. After seeing her die, right there in front of me, I've not been able to shake the image of her last breath from my mind. Sometimes I will be walking into a store and the image is just there in my mind constantly. In fact, it's rarely left my mind for more than a month. I do not consider this a bad thing or something I want to go away, necessarily. She died mostly peacefully, with morphine in her system calming her pain. It is not the fact of her death that seeing her last breath symbolizes, but the reality of her life transferring from active, sustained breath to immortalization in the collective memories and future actions of remembrance that we who love her take from this point forward.

Some human emotions or experiences simply cannot be described in words. They can only be lived, but it is still important to describe them as best we can. Those final moments of being with Kara while she was still alive, and the moments shortly after her passing have permanently changed me, in good ways. I am a happier, more complete person both for having known her as a child, and for being with her to at her last breath.

One outcome of that experience that I could never have predicted is that I feel physically and mentally stronger and more connected to this existence than ever before. Fears that may have lingered in my own mind about my own self-worth or dignity have begun to vanish.

In the most visceral sense, I feel solidified in my soul, as if in the embrace and tears that my grandmother, my aunt, and my uncle and I shared immediately after Kara died there was an invisible tree that instantly took deep root and we became its trunk and branches, as did Kara, immortalized within us.

Everything seems to be less important to me now than watering that tree and its branches.

Seeing a person you love dying taps into the best parts of your nature."—Lise Funderberg

This quote comes from an article on MSN Health:

The article expounds further:
Before experiencing the death of a loved one, many people view the prospect with dread. Afterward, they often look back on their death-witnessing experience as having been a horrible, grief-stricken time that nevertheless brought certain gifts. Among these: new insights into their own capacity for selfless love and caring, renewed or intensified bonds with other family members, a new respect for siblings or medical staffers, a healing of old wounds.

"The situation asked for grace, patience, and charity, so something I actually benefited from was to see I had a fairly deep capacity for those things that hadn't been called on in the same way before," says Funderberg, who wrote about her father's long final illness in Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home. "Someone dying is a great prioritizer. What does something like the resentment you were holding onto matter now?"
And it all brings me back to what is happening, or not happening, in the closest relationships I have on this earth. What am I doing to care for and feed and water those relationships?

And sometimes I think, wow, overnight I could triple my number of half-siblings! Whatever would I do? I'd probably take them all to a baseball or basketball game and eat some french fries or pretzels with them. I'd then probably try to convince them to also eat other healthier vegetables and foods and think about their futures!

That's what much older brothers do.

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