Friday, November 26, 2010


One of my brothers, the one closest in age to me, sent me an email today that was upsetting. He said, essentially, he wasn't interested in having a relationship with his siblings because he felt he was the odd one out and did not fit in with the rest of us.

He went on to suggest he felt we didn't want to talk about things he wanted to talk about and that we effectively dismissed him when he tried. His message suggested he was not blaming us (though he was), saying he had never enjoyed being around most people and had no friends, only acquaintenances.

I don't know whether to read the email as a plea for the rest of us to understand him and talk to him or whether, as I suspect, he just doesn't want to be around us. The interesting thing is that he and I had been exchanging emails over the last couple of days; I had invited him to drive up to join my wife and me for Thanksgiving dinner and then, when he said he got the message too late, for the day after (today) because there was still turkey left.

There's a long history to my brother's being unhappy with me and with his other siblings. He has felt inferior to the rest of us because he did not go to college. None of us have, to my knowledge, given him reason to feel that way, but he has anyway. And he has always been a deep, deep, deep Rush Limbaugh type of conservative, complete with the redneck attitudes. That has always contributed to whatever rancor there has been.

I believe my brother is very bright, but he also has a very, very short fuse (he has quit more jobs than I have ever even though of applying for...multipled tenfold). His short fuse has, no doubt, contributed to his quitting, getting fired, etc., but probably has contributed to his self-described lack of friends. He takes everything personally. If I complain that oil companies are getting rich on the backs of the masses, he takes personal offense. He can't seem to divorce political positions from personalities. While I also tend to gravitate toward people who share my attitudes and beliefs, I don't automatically loathe everyone who has a different perspective. I believe he does.

Over the years, I have tried to help my brother during his many, many periods of unemployment by lending him money, encouraging him to return to school or get training for another field, etc., etc., etc. Maybe that's come back to haunt me; maybe I shouldn't have offered my advice; maybe he took my advice as judgment that what he had been doing was wrong. I've stopped doing that; I cannot afford to help him rebuild his life every time he destroys it. But now he's living on disability (he cannot work because of his knees, among other maladies), so he doesn't even need my financial help (he could use it but he wouldn't take it if I offered).

I am not sure what, if anything, I should do to reconcile with him. In responding to his email, in which he effectively said we're all too set in our ways to change, I said:

Obviously, you're free to make your own decisions. If you choose to avoid your family, that's your choice. That having been said, you're welcome to be part of any family get-togethers, because you're part of the family.

As for subjects you try to introduce into conversation but are rejected, the only things I recall along those lines relate to politics. From my perspective, the reason is that any such conversations always degenerate into nasty arguments; I'm quite tired of that and have no interest in, nor willingness, letting it continue.

People change all the time, at every stage of life. I've been changing all along and continue to do it every day. If you want to change, you can; you simply have to decide to do it and muster the discipline to make it happen. You can't blame history for who you'll be tomorrow; only you, personally, can take responsibility for that.

If you want others to change, you'll need to get used to the fact that they will change only after they, not you, decide that's what they want or is what's best. Sometimes, if you want others to change, you have to start first.

I don't know if my response was the right one or not. I wish I knew.

No comments: