Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Oh, that's all? I love you."

When I was little I had a big brother. He was grown and mostly out of the house but he was around for periods of time up until we moved when I was approximately ten years old. I had other siblings, one sister who ran away when she was almost eighteen and I hadn't met yet, another sister much older than I who was more like an aunt at the time because of the age difference, and another older brother who took great delight at the time in picking on his younger sibling.

I so loved my eldest brother. He cooked me special meals, stood up for me whenever someone hurt me, and brought me presents when returning home.

We had two houses on my parents old property. We had the old house and up the hill we had the new house. The old house was a beautiful old farm house that came with the property when they purchased it and the new house was the one my dad built himself. My dad had worked in many aspects of construction and they were able to build and fix up properties, saving a tidy sum along the way. However, this won't be a frugal post about saving money, learning a trade, or property improvement and real estate. It's much more personal.

When my brother was not in a big city far away from our acreage he stayed in the big upstairs bedroom in the old house where I was born. The rest of us lived up the hill in the new house which my brother referred to as the shoebox for it's basic shape and lack of interest.

I clung to my big brother and tried to spend every moment with him. We cooked together and hung out in his room. I used to sit on the natural stone slabs that were placed in the hill as stairs and wait for him to realize I was waiting. I listened to the sounds of his radio drifting down and caught glimpses of him dancing past the windows. Eventually he would feel my little eyes boring into him and say, "Hey, how long have you been down there? Come on up."

We listened to albums, we played games, he read to me, and tucked me in at night. He cooked crab cakes and shrimp for us. We made Christmas cookies but we didn't have any cookie cutters so we had to cut all of those shapes out with butter knives.

Once he got into a huge shouting match with our dad. Well, it really wasn't a match because our dad was doing all the shouting. I don't remember what it was about because it was long ago and I was very little. What I do remember is hiding under the kitchen table while the voices escalated. When it became really severe I jumped out and yelled at my dad, "I love my brother! Leave him alone!" I was sent to bed for my efforts. My brother came in quietly later to comfort me. I didn't understand why I got in trouble.

When I was a small shy child in first grade a high school kid molested me on the school bus. It was horrible and I was scared. I told my parents and my eldest brother. My parents had issues of their own I suppose. They didn't know how to conduct themselves sometimes, mostly they just retreated. My mom said, "Why didn't you just hit him with your lunchbox?" That's a sentence that has certainly stuck with me for life. My father just gave me a disapproving look like I had done something wrong. My brother looked at them and shook his head, he looked at me and then he took off through the woods in the direction of the the house I had described as the place where the guy had his bus stop. No one ever mentioned the incident again in my house, but nobody ever touched me again on the bus. I shudder to think of how things would have turned out if I didn't have his help there. I'll never know what he did.

I was in high school when my brother told me he was gay. It didn't change my love for him one bit. I was out of my parents house when I learned he had AIDS. When he died I was living in a detached garage with no bathroom or kitchen with my three small children. We had to walk to my parents house next door for facilities. I had nowhere else to go, no job, no money. I couldn't be there for him in his final days. I couldn't afford to make the trip when he died. I was heartbroken, yet I had to go on for I was in survival mode. I found out he passed one afternoon and that evening I had a midterm exam in Sociology. In a fog I went to class, telling no-one of my inner pain and carried on.

My mother, ever private, told me if I had to tell anyone at all to tell them it was cancer and not to mention AIDS. This was when there was such an uproar over AIDS on every news channel. I also found that my parents had prejudices of their own. My mother actually gave me a lecture on why I shouldn't have anal sex. Can you imagine anything so embarrassing? Mother, I'm a straight female, I don't think you need to worry about that.

Fast forward a decade. I had completed my two year degree but not pursued it further because I had settled for retail management. I bought a house and worked 40 to 70 hours a week. The children were older and finances had improved (so I thought at the time) but we were deep in debt.

My son wanted to talk to me alone. He seemed so nervous. My thoughts immediately turned to what he may have done. I was so worried until he finally said, "Mom, I'm gay."

I laughed and gave him a big hug, "Oh that's all? I love you." I said, "I was afraid you were going to give me bad news." My son had officially come out at thirteen with no shouting matches, no threats, and no tears. I didn't take on a cloak of prejudice from my forebears. I only kept the love.

My dad came to the house to discuss his financial plans. He was gifting each grandchild with a small amount of money for college or vehicle expenses. He said, "I guess I will still give your son some money even though he's gay. You're letting him be like this? It killed your brother you know."

"No dad," I snapped angrily, "Being gay didn't kill my brother. AIDS killed my brother!"

I loved my brother and I love all of my children. I will always love them. I'm proud my son felt safe, and loved enough to come out and state who he was at thirteen. I know from experience, from conversations with my brother and son and friends that it is not a lifestyle choice. You are born that way.

I wish I could rid the world of prejudice and hate and ignorance and silly feuds and war. Life can be way too short. Gather all the love you can. After all, love is all you can take with you.

In a perfect world people would just be accepted for who they are. It breaks my heart to hear of teen suicides, and bullying, and to hear about kids who have to hide who they are around their families. I wish all children were allowed the confidence to live as they want to live.

If you've read this far, I'm giving you homework. Go hug your children/siblings/spouse/parents...Give huge bundles of love to everyone important to you. Life is all too fleeting. Love unconditionally, it's important. Please teach tolerance and share love.

Thank You!

27 comments:

  1. This post made me tear up. No joke.. it's beautiful.

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  2. I've experienced my wake-up call earlier this month. What you say is true. Thank you for sharing your story. You sound like an amazing Mom!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your great story. I got all misty-eyed.

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  4. Oh this just makes my heart break. Not least because of the idea of an older sibling who was actually there for you.

    Thank goodness your kids reap the benefit of his love for you, and the lessons you took away from his experience, though he isn't around to give it.

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  5. Have you told your son about your brother? He left you a lovely legacy!

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  6. I love your stories WP - why you're not a bestselling author, I don't know. Not many people can make me cry in under 2 minutes like you can.
    I often think there's not much my kids could do that would make me that angry - unless it was hurting someone else. I would only wish for them not to be gay because it's a harder life and my mom-ness wants things to be easy for them.
    I had an experience like yours on the bus - and my parents were head in the sand like yours too. I've never understood that kind of thinking. But I had a brother like yours too. Hooray for big brothers!

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  7. PS - can you set your blog up to get posts by email? Please? I keep missing you because I don't use my reader very much.

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  8. Okay, I had to clear away the tears before I could type. My brother was molested, and my mother said he was lying because it was her favorite cousin and my brother wanted to hurt her. So, my brother thought he was gay but never pursued it. I explained that something was done to him and asked him if he preferred men. NO! He drank a 12-pack each day and smoked two packs of cigarettes. He died of a heart attack at 52. My parents did not know what to do with his information about the molestation.I was not old enough to help.

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  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you for that wonderful post.

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  10. What a wonderful post. My best friend in the world is gay, growing up is was something we alwasy knew from the time he was little. His parents and family were caring and loving, and to his friends it didnt make a difference. I think that this made all the difference in his life.

    He has a wonderful husband, and two beautiful children and I am proud to call him my friend. And you are a wonderful parent...and your brother left you a warm and loving legacy.

    Judy

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  11. Thank you to everyone for the lovely comments. I really appreciate it.

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  12. Sharon, can you email my kids and tell them I'm an amazing mom? ;)

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  13. Terri, although they were never able to meet in this life I have shared the stories.

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  14. Jacq, Thank you so much! I'm glad you had a big brother too!

    I thought the e-mail thing was working...it appears right under the comment box. Hmm, I do have some work lined up for this blog. I'll see if I can figure it out soon.

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  15. Practical Parsimony, my friends husband was in a similar situation and it has affected him for life. I'm so sorry about your brother. Please remember you were too young to help at the time and let the guilt go. Keep only the love.

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  16. Judy, thank you. Sounds like your friend was raised very well.

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  17. Wow! Very moving post and a real tribute to your wonderful brother. Thank you for sharing this.

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  18. This was a very touching post both about your brother and the support you show your son. Thanks for sharing something so personal.

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  19. When I first read this, I was so overwhelmed, I coudn't comment. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful brother.

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  20. I just wanted you to know that I loved this. Far too many people don't realize what is truly important. Your son--heck, you whole family--is lucky to have you.

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  21. It's amazing the impact that a legacy of love can have on someone's life. I never understand people that choose to disown their children because of who they are. But then I am happy that there are people like you as well that decide that love is far, far better than hate.

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  22. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I'm glad you had such a loving brother that took care of you and left you with such nice memories, I love reading your blog, it is very inspiring. Thank you.

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