My Brother Used to Make Me Cry

... but, not in the way you might think.

I mean, sure Chris spent a certain portion of our childhood trying to torture me in those particular ways only a sibling can. He knew all my weak spots. He knew he could nail me to the wall with a comment about my weight, lack of a boyfriend, my nose (God, I hated my nose!). And he definitely knew how to make me cry.

And I gave it right back. I was downright cruel more than once.

My mom's philosophy on sibling dynamics was rather laissez-faire. (I don't really know dad's philosophy. He generally left that sort of thing to mom.) More than once I remember her telling me that I'd better treat Chris well, or I'd really get it once he "was bigger than [I]." She pretty much let me dig my own eventual grave through torturing him, figuring I'd get mine when he eventually hit a growth spurt.

Unfortunately for him (and for me ... and more so, for us), that didn't really happen until way, way too late. Through the flukeyness of genetics, Chris didn't hit his adult height until quite late. By then I was in college. We were both much, much too old to really haul off and clobber one another. And, even more than that ... we were really much too distant to really care so much what the other of us was doing. We had too little contact with each other to get all that worked up. We had our own worlds and they didn't revolve around our parents' yard or living room anymore.

But, back to the childhood part of this story.

Mom would pretty much let us haul off and clobber each other, even when it was very clear that I had reach and weight on Chris. I used to pound him (when I could catch him. Chris was, and I'm sure still is, way faster than I.). He used to fill me with such animal rage that I would just want to beat on him.

I have a very distinct recollection of what I think is the very last time I ever physically fought my brother. I don't know how old we were precisely, but I remember it was warm and sunny. Lots of light was coming in through the big front picture window. I was on top of Chris, holding him down on the floor and just shaking him and pinning him down. It was horrible. I'm appalled now. Must be twenty-five or so years later. I'm disgusted. I don't remember what I was mad about. But I was filled with rage. Then something inside me shifted. I remember exactly what went through my head. It was like a clear voice in the chaos of my emotion.

"This is my brother. I love him. What am I doing? How could I be doing this? What kind of horrible person does this?"

I burst into tears and ran to my room. I sobbed for a long time, I think. I remember still sitting in there when the sky was getting dark. I remember I'd had those sorts of gut reactions before, "What am I doing? I don't actually hate him." But nothing to this degree. I don't think I ever really laid a hand on him again.

We're not exactly bosom buddies now. I don't think either of us would necessarily call the other one up all that often just to talk. But, we have a better understanding, I think. We keep up with each others' lives through our blogs, and we do talk on the phone every now and then. I love my brother and I know he loves me, too. We've worked all that out.

But, does a child inherit the sins of a parent?

Matthew tried to sell out Emily tonight. He'd been punished for something and tried to get Emily in trouble, too. I don't think she'd done what he'd said. He just didn't want to suffer alone. And she heard the whole thing. She heard him working to convince me to punish her. It broke my heart.

I've always tried to raise the two of them to be a team, to be unified even if that unity is "against" Joe and I. Someday they won't have us anymore, but I want to make sure they have each other. Against the world, if necessary. It's working, mostly. They're way closer than Chris and I were at the same ages.

But when they face off against each other, or really deliberately try to hurt each other -- emotionally or physically -- it takes me right back to that moment on the living room floor in the sunshine. And my heart hurts.


1 comment:

Chris said...

For what it's worth, I don't recall teasing you about your nose (you don't like it?), or pretty much anything of the abuse we dished out on each other.

To be honest, I know we fought tooth and nail at times, but I can't really recall specific events or memories (maybe you hit me harder than you think... that's a joke of course).

I do remember a big sister antic you used to pull on me over and over again (you were Lucy to my Charlie Brown): You'd open a brand new jar of peanut butter and ask me if I'd ever seen what it looked like before it was touched. I'd run over and just before I got there you'd scoop a spoonful out of it.

[sarcasm]Gosh. You WERE a meanie.[/sarcasm]

It's ok Sis. I love you too.