A Little Brotherly Advice…Said The Screw-Up To The Messed Up….

So I had a little chat with my brother dearest today. Just to get it out of the way, can I just say…wierd. Yeah, um…him and I, we’re not exactly the best of friends. In fact, we’ve been more like arch enemies for well…for as long as I can remember. Which is a little ironic, I guess, considering how everyone is always pointing out how much we’re alike. Although, family-wise–I think that’s mostly been said and meant in a negative way. But still, when I stop hating him for long-ago piled up transgressions long enough…I can almost see where that might not be so far from the truth.

He and I…we are alike. In a lot more ways than I would have ever thought until now. I mean, we’re both stubborn and willful and we tend to let our tempers get the best of us–well…most of the time. When that happens–he tends to lean towards the vocal, physical way of letting out the anger and frustration. Whereas I–I’m more the broody, sit-in-my-room-and-cry-while-pouring-my-heart-out-into-a-dozen-pages-of-some-serious-journal-and-me-time. Whatever the choice of venting outlet, we both ultimately end up turning the pain and the anger inwards, on ourselves.

Me (MESSIE)...My Brother...My Sister (circa. 1987)
Me (MESSIE)…My Brother…My Sister (circa. 1987)

He has this tough guy/can’t-touch-me exterior that he puts up for the world, but I think that–like me–it’s just a front we put up to convince the world we’re fine, when in reality we’re anything but. He’d probably kill me if he knew I said this, but I honestly just think that underneath the cool facade, he’s just a scared and lost little boy. It’s not his fault that he is who he is…not really. He didn’t exactly have it so good growing up—hell, none of us did—but him especially. He didn’t have that father-son connection that I think all little boys need. As far as he’s concerned, our father walked out on us; that he abandoned us. End of story. Whatever the case may be…if that’s what happened, I don’t think he’ll ever forgive him for that. Or forget. I don’t think he even can. With no father in the picture, one of our uncles stepped up and sort of took him under his wing, so to speak. They were inseparable, and in so many ways, like any other father and son. That is, up until my uncle got married, and everything changed. To this day, I still have no idea what caused the rift in the family, but whatever it was, it had to have been pretty bad considered it’s been over 20 years since we’ve spoken. We were so young when he got married and walked away from everyone, including his family, that I don’t even remember the guy. I’m actually glad that I don’t. After all, you can’t miss what you never had. Right? Even after all these years and him turning his back on his entire family, they still defend him. I can’t do that. He was the one who left us; who left my brother. It crushed him, my uncle leaving. He took it really hard. Then, if that’s not bad enough, we lost our grandfather.

That’s when it all started to fall apart. He started rebelling and acting out—skipping school, drinking, doing drugs—basically doing whatever the hell he wanted to. I don’t know how many times my sister and I got loaded into the car in the middle of the night and go with our mother to drag him home from wherever he was partying. He got kicked out of school and dropped out. For years, it was a constant battle with him with the PINS program and his frequent problems involving law enforcement. It was crazy. The more you held on, the more he resisted and lashed out. He was drinking and doing drugs. He was out of control.

I thought…no wait, I hoped, that with a daughter on the way, he’d change his ways. That he’d settle down a little. If for no other reason, than to prove he was a better father than ours turned out to be. He wasn’t even there for her birth. Rather, he was in a jail. I know he would have been there if he could have, and he’ll always regret that. Or he will…eventually. Now he’s a father of three and he still hasn’t changed. He’s still out every night, drinking, doing drugs…

And thus, we come full circle with this post. I asked him if he ever got tired with it…with the going out all the time and nursing a hangover every morning. He said he didn’t. He’s a lair though because I know that it does get tiring. That he’s getting tired by it. I mean, he’s going to 29 in a few months. I know that this is NOT the life he planned out. I mean, there has to be more. I know he wants it. I just think he’s too damn stubborn and maybe a little afraid even to actually come out and say so. I think he thinks it’ll ruin that tough guy persona he’s convinced everyone that he is. Not to mention that he’s been doing it for so long that he it’s all he’s ever known. We talked about him starting classes next semester. I think it’ll be good for him. I really do. It might even make him grow up a little. To do some settling down. Maybe some prioritizing while he’s at it. It’s time.

Anyhow, when we were talking, out of nowhere he asks me why I don’t go out partying anymore—not college, but in general. That was a loaded question, if I heard one. My answer…well, it’s complicated. I have several reasons. First, there’s the obvious. I’m way too busy right now with school and getting my career on track. I’m so close to getting what I’ve always wanted, and what I’ve worked so hard for…that I’d be an absolute fool to mess that up. Secondly, I’m 25 years old. I’ve had my fun. The partying, the going out, the drinking and getting wasted to the point where you can’t even remember your name, the drugs, the mistakes, the pulling in strangers’ driveways to outsmart the cops…it gets to a point where it’s all just exhausting, you know? Besides, I long ago realized that, at some point, the drinking and partying went from being about having fun, to being just a way to escape from the reality of my life. From the memories; from everything. I may be like my brother in a lot of ways, but I don’t want to be him. I don’t want to drown my sorrows in a bottle of liquor every night. I don’t want to keep running from my responsibilities because I’m afraid of failing or that I’ll disappoint those who need me most.

But more than anything, I don’t want to become my parents. I don’t want to be like my father and decide that the open road is more appealing than being there for my own children. Granted, there’s a lot more to my father leaving than just that, but still. I know that, in his defense, he tried to do the right thing by my mother and us kids—at least at first. I know that my family interfered and complicated things so much to the point where he no longer deemed it worth it. I know that when he got remarried and settled down in Indiana that he tried to do right by my brother and have him go out there—and that my mother refused to let that happen. I know that, for years, my mother and my family told lies about him and why he left, and led us kids to believe that he wanted nothing to do with us when it wasn’t true. I also know that if he’d tried harder than he did, than he could have made that happen. He’s not a bad guy—our father—but he’s not father of the year material either. No amount of excuses or miles away can justify him not being there for us. He knows that and so do we. As for my mother, I don’t want to be like her either. I don’t want to end up resenting my children, like she did us. I don’t want my daughter looking back when she’s 25 and wondering why she wasn’t good enough, like with my mother and me.

It’s ironic—this situation with my brother. I mean, he resents our parents—our father especially—for not being there for him growing up, and yet—he’s doing the exact same thing with his own kids, my niece and my nephews. He thinks going to one of my niece’s soccer games here and there, or taking my nephew for the weekend now and then—is the equivalent of being a good dad. But he’s wrong. So wrong. It’s sad. Unfortunate, really. He just doesn’t get it. That, or he just doesn’t care. Either way, it isn’t right. If nothing else, it’s down-right hypocritical. I love my brother…but it’s true. And I just wish he’d wake up and see that. And soon. Before it’s too late.

As for the rest of it, I guess it’s just a matter of having been there, and done that. I had fun. I made some great memories that I’ll cherish forever. But with the good, also came the bad. That same fun also cost me so much. It cost me my childhood and my innocence. It cost me my morality, my sense of right and wrong. It cost me my ability to trust, not just in someone else, but in myself. Having fun led me to my first heartbreak and brought me to my first absolute breaking point. It turned something that was once beautiful and special, into one of the worst periods of my life. It cost me my ability to feel anything; to care at all. I was numb and empty and broken for so long, that I honestly believed I’d have been better off dead. But more than anything, it cost me something that I’d wanted more than anything in the world. It forced me to make a decision that I’ve spent nearly the past 2 1/2 years regretting completely. Having fun changed me. Some for the better. Some not so much.

And it brought me here. I’ve grown up so much and I’ve come so far. I’m not entirely proud of the process, but I am proud of the person that I have become. I realize now how foolish and wrong I had been. I know better now. I know what I want, and more importantly what I don’t want. And I know what matters, and what doesn’t. The drinking and the partying—that isn’t me anymore. I don’t know if it ever was. Either way, I’m glad that it’s not. Everything is so much clearer now, so much better. Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m not willing to give that up. Not right now. Not yet.

Now…if only my brother could realize that. Hopefully, in time, he will. After all, he and I are supposedly so much alike…



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