Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Father, My Brother, My Son

My dad lived 32 years on this earth. In that short time he was a loved son, brother, father, husband and friend. He was also an avid hunter and served in the US Navy in Cuba during the Vietnam War. Although I was not yet 6 years old when he died, I have memories of him and think of him daily. I spent time as a child wondering how my life would be different with him in it and sometimes think that as an adult. The difference is when I think of him now I don't know that my life would have been better if he had lived. That's not to say that I wouldn't have wanted him in my life. He was an alcoholic and made some poor choices but the truly sad part is that he never got a chance to turn that around and become the man he had the potential to be. I wonder how it would have felt to have my dad there when my heart was broken the first time and when his grandchildren were born. My life was spent wondering what could have been.

My brother is 17 months younger than me and he grew up lost in his world. He didn't have a father to guide and teach him. My grandfather (dad's father) tried to help him and loved him unconditionally but he never tried to replace his son and stuck to the grandfather role. My brother has a heart of gold and would give you anything you asked him for without hesitation. I, on the other hand, was stingy and didn't like to share anything with him. We grew up at odds and didn't want much to do with each other. That's not to say I didn't look out for him but we had so much shared pain that it was hard to lean on each other. Even without our dad in our lives, my brother is my dad's son in every way. He does things to excess including drinking and doesn't think things through before acting. He is probably bi-polar but has never been diagnosed. When he was 19 he did his first "county-sponsored vacation" and has had a hard time breaking the cycle. There were many factors and reasons but, for times sake, I won't go into it. The last "visit" lasted 17 months and he has been out since January 2007. He is the same age right now as our dad was when he died.

All of this brings me to my son. My son is 11 years old and thinks nothing is ever his fault. Everything that happens to him is related back to something or someone else and, in his mind, is not as a result of anything he did. We struggle with getting him to see that his actions are the cause of most of his problems but it is like talking to a wall. There have been many times I have walked away after an arguement with him and muttered my brother's name under my breath because that is exactly what my brother thought as well. But my son is also so caring and would give you the shirt off his back if you asked or he thought you needed it. He loves to shoot his bow and arrows when we visit my mom's in Missouri but would never kill an animal. He loves to torment his sister but is also fiercely protective of her.

In so many ways I see my brother in my son. It is frustrating but also endearing. My brother is so much like my dad and my son has so many of the same qualities of my brother. The habits and mentalities are very similar even though they rarely see each other. Is this a peek at what my dad was like when he was growing up? I know it is similar to my brother when he was growing up. Maybe I am clutching at anything to keep a connection to my dad but in some ways, I think it is his way of letting me know that he will always be with me and to help break the cycle that he never was able to. It is a stretch but I refuse to let my son go through the pain that my father and brother did by accepting and learning from the past and doing everything I can to change the future for him. That's not something that my dad's mother would have been able to or my mother can say.

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