Fork in the Road

My beautiful pictureAll families, it seems, have their secrets.

And while that may or may not be true, there’s one secret that this member of the Family Project will need to reveal to the other remaining member in the next couple of days.

But let me back up here a bit.

As previously mentioned, my brother’s birth was the first watershed moment of my life. I now have a photo (below right) that directly links to Mom’s description of Sunday, Feb. 11, 1962—the day Brian was released from the hospital, since he was born a premie on Jan. 3.

Mom wrote in my baby book: “Today we brought Mike’s baby brother home. He was very thrilled but also seemed worried about his status in the household. After I put the baby in his bed Mike climbed on my lap and hugged me very tightly.”

Four days later, my resentment seemed to grow.BrotherBorn2

Consider if you will the Family Project as a single team pitted against a fast-changing, post-modern world. But from within it was actually two separate teams—me and Mom versus Brian and Dad. While that may sound extreme, certain factors bear it out: the clinical depression both mother and I share, as well as personality traits such as Brian’s extroversion similar to Dad’s, and their hobbies of hunting and fishing. Mom and I liked music and reading. There were clear distinctions.

Even later, when Mom was hospitalized in the 1980s, I resented Brian’s general repugnance toward her condition. To me it felt like betrayal, and I did my best to defend her. Oftentimes I wasn’t very good at that—something I’ve long regretted.

MeBriTaffyIn a December 1999 letter Mom wrote: “As a gesture of love to your brother, write and give to him two things you admire and appreciate about him.” She, along with Dad, knew a rift had been forming between Brian and me. “To think that another person is going to be like us,” she continued, “value the same things we do, and love the way we do, is impossible.”

After Mom died, Dad underscored that concern. “He’s the only brother you’ll ever have,” he told me during one of our Sunday phone conversations in 2008. But coming from Dad, who shared so much with Brian (pictured at left looking at our dog Taffy, in Dec. 1963)—even down to safe, practically considered life decisions—it just wasn’t enough. I was determined to be myself and refused to be molded by anyone, including the Family Project.

Which leads me back to that secret.

Just prior to our trip to Indiana to inter our parents’ remains, the first week in April of this year, I stood at my own personal fork in the road. I’d been thinking a lot since their deaths, about what I value and which direction I wanted to go for the rest of my life. I was feeling a lot of regret: no family of my own, such as Brian had done, and unsatisfying work that didn’t align with my skills, values or ambitions.

Then I saw the direction.Brother4

The way ahead was the thin, barely trodden path away from the main road. So I left that old road and started down a new one. I quit my job of almost six years and started my own business. Some might say it was the dumbest decision I’ve ever made. But it felt right—still feels right—deep down in my gut.

For almost nine months now, I’ve neglected to tell Brian. I wanted time to think about things, unfettered by family worries or distracting advice. But before the year is out that secret must be told; I can’t go forward with it still on my back.

BrotherFinalThe decision to tell Brian comes with some heavy concerns.

As I said, he’s so much like Dad—a Practical Joe, middle-of-the-road, cautious and calculated. I’m afraid his reaction will be every bit as censorious as Dad’s would’ve been.

Because I have none of the answers to possible questions he might pose (I live for the questions and care less for the answers, you know), I can’t bear to have the lingering disapproval of my only living family member.

So here it is, Mom. Those two things I appreciate about my brother: his resourcefulness and tough-as-nails-ability to ground himself and his family.

And because of that last quality, maybe Brian can’t go down a road similar to the one I’ve chosen, but I hope he wishes me well on my new adventure.

All I know is that things have changed forever.

~ by completelyinthedark on December 28, 2012.

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