Sunday, October 02, 2011

A book club inspired post - Brotherly Love

I give my parents a lot of credit for teaching me how to be a good person when I was growing up. I remember lots of conversations with my mom about making the right decision and doing the right thing. It was from my mother that I learned to give to charity. She helped me tape my quarters and dimes to a card to send to Easter seals. She took me with her to donate blood. She told me that I could be anything I wanted to be.

She taught me how to set a proper table, how to sew a straight seam, and how to act like a lady. Obviously there are some lessons I learned better than others. 

She also taught me the art of criticism.

I learned some things from my dad too. Like how to have an opinion, how to walk away from a fight, and how to swear. I learned the art of snark and sarcasm from him as well. Again, some I excelled at, others not so much.

But one thing that I've realized over the last several years is that I didn't learn about family from them. I mean, I learned what family is, and who my family is, but I don't recall ever feeling that there was any importance to family, especially outside our little foursome.

We lived quite close to my one uncle and his family, as we did my mothers parents, and my great grandmother. All of us in different houses on our farm.

I was close to my grandmother and my great grandmother. My cousin was my best friend through most of our school days. But the rest of the family only got together on Thanksgiving and Christmas for the most part. And that was on my mothers side.

On my fathers side I saw my aunt and uncle and their family every few years. My grandfather (gramps) died when I was 8,and I only saw him a few times before that since he lived in Texas. My grandmother (granny) I saw a few more times growing up, but after gramps died she moved to California to be with her sister. She died when I was in college. I was never close with her. It never seemed important enough for her to come visit us, or us to visit her.

Others may see it differently, but the lesson I took out of those years on family, is that if you have the love of your life for a spouse, nothing else really matters. My mom did not care for her own brothers even as adults. I believe she is closer with one now, but the other is still in her mind her "unbrother." Her own mother drove her nuts. She was a good daughter to her, but it appeared out of duty, not because she wanted to.

With my dad and his mom I recall very few phone calls. Holiday calls to his brother and one sister (the second sister was written off as a loser years earlier).

There was love there, I don't doubt that, but I also know that if my aunts had not been involved there would have been even less contact.

So what I'm getting at here, is that I never learned the lesson that family is everything. That you can love and fight and maybe even hate them for a while, but they will always be your family.

What I did learn is that if you disappoint your family you will be cut off from them. It was done to me when I was in college and I was told that rather than a daughter, they would consider me a family friend. That smoothed over, but you know what has gone on the last few years.And on both sides of my parents one of their siblings has been disowned.

If you've read my blog you know that there is a rift between me and my parents, and that because of that my brother is also not speaking to me. Well, to be fair, he never really spoke to me, but his wife did, and now she isn't, and I really miss her.

I don't like it this way at all. If I could figure out a way to fix it I would. To fix it though both sides have to want to, and the other side doesn't seem to want to.

And all of that is the preamble leading up to the guts of my blog post today, which is about brotherly love. I wrote a little bit about that in a previous post.

So like my parents did with me I'm trying to teach my children how to be good people. How to be good citizens.

I am also trying to teach them the importance of brotherhood. And about fealty to our family.

Just tonight I was curled up with Kiel as he was slowly drifting towards sleep and he brought up something Noah did that hurt him. Kiel said he didn't like it, and that it hurt. Then he told me Noah is bad. And a baby. So we had a good talk (as good as it can be with an almost 4 year old anyway) about how important being brothers is, and that even if you are mad at Noah you still love him. And that some day you might have to help him make better decisions.

I've had that conversation with Noah multiple times. Yes Kiel can be a pain in the ass. Yes, he ruins your Legos. Yes, he's noisy. But, he loves you and looks up to you, and he is, and always will be, your brother and your biggest fan.

I hope that if I say it enough it will sink in and become so engrained in their brains that they will never question it. Brothers are for life! Mom and Dad won't always be here, but they will.

It's simplistic in its message now. As they grow I will help them see its more complicated parts. And then I will hope that I have laid a strong enough foundation for them that they never lose hold of each other.

And if they don't, I'm going to kick their ass.

Todays post was inspired by our current From Left to Write Book Club selection - Carry Yourself Back to Me. And let me just say I loved the book. Once I started it I couldn't put it down. I totally blame this book for me not cleaning my house last weekend. Extra props to Deborah as it is her first novel!

Deborah Reed's debut novel Carry Yourself Back to Me follows heartbroken singer-songwriter Annie Walsh as she digs into the past to
exonerate her brother from murder. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts
inspired by Carry Yourself Back to Me on book club day, October 4 at From Left  to Write



  1. This brings to my mind a line from a song in the musical South Pacific that goes, " hate all the people your relatives hate - you've got to be carefully taught."

    We learn by what we're taught, and as you point out, what we're NOT taught. Good for all of us to remember.

    Lastly, your conversation with your boys reminds me of ANOTHER line - from Dolphin Tale which I saw over the weekend: Family is Forever! That's a good one to teach - I've already used it a couple times myself! :)

  2. Yes Zen Momma! Family is Forever. I need to add that to my list.

  3. Great post, and I could write a post on IT! You brought up so many good points. I have a lot of resentment towards my mother who, although I was very ill and my brother has Asberger's, decided to move out of state to be married to a man who did not want to leave his precious city and things. She now lives with his children under in their two family home. No matter what she says, I know she does not love me the way she used to when I was a "normal", high achieving person instead of the way I am now, disabled. I feel that loss from her and her moving has made life very difficult for me.

    My husband and I tell my only child every day that we are all each other's best friends. I could NEVER do to my son what my mother did to me, even if he was 50 and I was 80. We will always have an open door policy for him. You mother someone for life, not just when things are good and they are your children no matter how old they are, at least that's the way I feel.

    One point I must say where I take issue with you is that a husband is expendable. One may have more than one husband through divorce or death, but one may never have another Noah or Kiel, you see?

    My mother has proved that to me.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. It reminds me of the scene in the novel where Annie's mother tells her and Calder to consider who will be left when other people have come and gone in their lives? Families are so complicate. In the one I created on the page, the point was to show that at the heart of who they were they truly cared for one another and should never lose sight of this. Of course they do, but this is what's nice about writing fiction. I can make them forgive and turn things around for the better. If only real life were always as simple! Bravo to you for writing about this.
    All best,

  5. I, too, hope that my kids are close when they grow up. My brother and I are not close, not really due to anything other than...I don't really know...different lives? I try to emphasize to them that they are on each other's sides, even at our (parents') expense. They get along great now, but I don't know if that's because of anything we've done. They just have similar interests and like playing together.

    Families are so hard.

  6. Exactly Deborah! That was the exact part of the book that inspired this post.

  7. This is a very sweet post. Really touched my heart. Your family is wonderful.

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