Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sibling Revelry

Saturday March 8th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

   What a nightmare. Today was the day I would finally be able to meet up with my siblings after a lifetime of pain and estrangement to hopefully get a much needed fresh start, but it could NOT have gone any worse. I showed up on time ready to make peace, but all of the old fires were relit.

   All it turned out to be was a continuation of the ugly past, and smoldering embers that have had decades to stay warm ignited into raging flames within minutes. Before the appetizers arrived we were right back in the emotional sewage I’ve been trying to escape and flinging it at each other.

   Everyone knew exactly what buttons to push to take the rage level to the absolute highest point of stress, and out of desperation we all went straight for each other’s emotional throats. Before it could calm down, the restaurant called the police to break up the melee. Hope was gone forever.

   That’s how the nightmare went. Fortunately, that’s not at all how it turned out in real life. Part of being a dented can is almost automatically expecting the worst to happen, only because we’ve seen it so often in our lives. We’re deathly afraid to get our hopes up for anything, because when they do get stomped into the mud it hurts even more. That’s just how it is, and becomes habitual.

   I’ll admit I was scared to death of this experience, and even though I thought it would go well there was still that ugly thought it could blow up in my face. I had several dreams about it, and at this point I just wanted to get it all over with so if it did go sour I could move on and let hope die.

   Actually I was the one that ended up being late. It wasn’t intentional, and I originally wanted to leave early just to make sure I’d get there. But as usually happens the phone kept ringing with all kinds of things I needed to take care of, and before I knew it I was scrambling to make it on time.

   I thought it would be appropriate to bring some kind of peace offering, even though I knew that wasn’t part of the deal. Nobody was expecting anything, but I thought it would be a nice touch so I wanted to do it. One thing I know all three have in common is that they enjoy casino gambling.

   I stopped at a gas station and bought $99 worth of scratch off lottery tickets, and asked the lady to give them to me in three strips of 33. She gave me an odd look, but I didn’t waste time with an explanation because it only would have made me even later. I also bought three individual lottery tickets for the big jackpot tonight, and was on my way. I wanted to make sure things went well.

   I arrived at the Cheesecake Factory in Mayfair Mall ten minutes late, and of course the parking lot was completely full. I couldn’t find a spot and people were waiting for others to pull out and I thought I was going to have an aneurism. I’d waited forty years for this chance, and now I had to wait for some lard ass polock to back his minivan out of a space so another one could squeeze in.

  That was ten more minutes of torture, but I eventually found a spot and walked to the restaurant - which was as full as the parking lot. I made my way past the hostess and looked for faces I had not seen in decades but knew all too well. Sure enough, there they were. They all looked at me at once, and I was paralyzed with fear. The dented can in me was terrified they would immediately go to that most horrific place, but they just smiled and said hello. I knew then it would go well.

   I said “I do think hugs are in order here,” and I did. None of our family has ever been huggers and I absolutely HATE it when a stranger does it, but this was a special occasion and I thought it was the right thing to do. They weren’t big long sloppy ones, but for us to start that way was very good. I passed out the scratch off tickets, and I could see they were a hit. It was worth the delay.

  “I thought we might run out of things to talk about, so I brought these to make sure we wouldn’t get bored,” I said. They laughed. Then I sat down and said “So…anything NEW?” They laughed again, and it was a pleasant experience after that. The awkwardness was there, but it soon faded.

   I took the lead and started with an apology. I stumbled through it, but it was very sincere. I said that anything I could say wouldn’t be an excuse, but there were reasons for why I did and said all the things I did and said. They sat through it, but I didn’t feel they needed to hear it like I thought they might. I’m glad I took ownership of it up front, but it faded quickly after that. I was thrilled.

   My sister Tammy had a few things she wanted to say, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined. In fact, what she had pointed out was something I never even remembered saying. We all agreed those things were in the past, and not why we came together. That was the only bit of old news.

   Brother Bruce was unbelievably approachable, and of any of us he’s the one that has made the most marks in the world. He’s done very well for himself in his career, and is very charming and funny and I see why he’s successful. He has his own business and not only paid for the meal - he flew up from Florida on his own dime to make sure we could all get together. What a classy act.

   Bruce and I really clashed as kids, and it was very ugly. His mother was our step mother, and it just wasn’t a good position to be us. That was then, and I have a whole new perspective now like we all do. I’m sorry it started out so poorly, but he is extremely intelligent and I’m proud to have him as a brother. I accept him, Tammy and Larry unconditionally, and I hope they do me as well.

  Brother Larry had it the worst of all of us. Our father used him as a human punching bag, and if there was ever anyone that would be a prime candidate to be an ax murderer it would be him. He took a LOT of abuse, but he has such a peaceful demeanor one would never know it. He’s one of the most laid back and easygoing people I have ever met, and it was wonderful to see him again.

   Larry is the exact opposite of me, as when someone gets in my face I go toe to toe immediately and don’t back down. Larry is unbelievably slow to anger, but when he does – look out. He’s put people in the hospital, and is well trained in martial arts. That’s how he dealt with all his anger.

   The meal was absolutely delicious, and we had fun just talking and reconnecting. We didn’t get too deep on any subject, and it was comfortable enough that we even talked about “him” for a bit – even though we’d agreed beforehand not to go there. We were all able to handle it, so we did.

  We also sadly agreed that we were all robbed of our childhoods. We’ve all been doing our best with the hands we’ve been dealt, and we all loudly agreed we intend to “break the chain”. I think we’re all doing great despite where we came from, and this night could not have come at a better time for all of us. It’s a start – albeit a great one - but I have no idea where we will go from here. We all hugged goodbye, and I had a satisfying drive home. The nightmare did NOT come true!

I can't say exactly when the last time all of my siblings and I were in the same room, but I was probably about this old. We were today, and it was a great start to a happy ending. I hope there are many more to come.

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