Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
I had some anger issues as a child. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it then. I mean, I guess I knew when I’d have outbursts of anger. I wasn’t numb. But, I didn’t see it as a problem or something that needed attention or that it indicated a deeper seeded issue within me. I was just a kid. Kids do what kids do. Model their parents, mostly. At least the parent(s) they spend the most time with.
I’ve shared previously that my mom and dad divorced when I was 3. My dad was responsible and paid his child support while picking me up every Sunday to spend the day with me. When he came by on Sunday’s he actually spent time there at our house chatting with my mom and her 2nd husband. It was a strange situation that didn’t seem strange to me at the time. I was just a kid.
My dad was pretty unflappable. He rarely lost his temper. Or, at least that I observed. His passive demeanor opposite my mom’s dominating personality were probably their undoing (among a lot of other things) as husband and wife. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the atmosphere in my grandparents home that greeted my dad when he would visit. We laugh at the images of these stories now but the tension in the room as the stories unfolded must have been palpable.
That was the kind of atmosphere I grew up experiencing. My mom and step father fought…a lot. I’ll never forget coming down the stairs one time and seeing an object flying through the air during an argument. Arguing, cussing, crying, yelling and anger were the common elements of my home life. Now, it wasn’t everyday and there were a LOT of great memories. My mom always loved me and told me so every day. But her marriage was not healthy and neither was the temperature of our home. And, I wore that anger like a coat of many colors, much to my chagrin. My step brother was often the target of my anger. I did things to him that I would ultimately have to ask forgiveness for as I grew older and after I had become a Christian. Then, my eyes were opened to my behavior. I understood what the bible meant when it said “I was once blind, but now I see.” not only about my spiritual destiny but about the sin in my life post-Christ vs. pre-Christ. I eventually had two “half” sisters, 8 and 10 years my junior. It’s only recently that I’ve gotten to know them a little more deeply, simply because they were so much younger than me when we lived under the same roof.
I think much of my anger toward my step brother was jealousy based. I had been the lone target of my mom’s affection. Then, he came along. As I look back on those days, however, I recall that my mom was not warm and nurturing to my step brother. He had some social inhibitions and physical limitations (including a glass eye as a replacement for an eye he had removed at a young age). So, unfortunately, I think I assumed the same attitude toward my brother that I saw my mom take toward him. That is not to blame my mom because I could have certainly chosen a different response. I didn’t. I was just a kid.
Tim (my step brother) was a quiet and unassuming kid. His dad and mom divorced like mine had. I can’t even imagine the house he grew up in and how he handled some of the struggles I know he experienced. But, as an 8 year old kid, I wasn’t thinking about how hard he had had it. I was only concerned about one person…me. And, I was not happy. I can’t pinpoint why. Recalling my childhood does help me to reflect on the situation more philosophically and helps to give myself grace but also to feel more compassion for my brother. I’m thankful that I asked him to forgive me for my less than loving actions toward him and receiving his forgiveness. Years and miles have kept us apart and I wonder what he is up to. I know he has children who are mostly grown. Divorce reached into his marriage and snatched it away due to infidelity on her part, I think. Every once in a while I wonder what it would have been like if I had treated my brother differently. What would it have been like to have a brother to play ball with, wrestle (lovingly), laugh and grow close to as part of a lifetime of friendship.
I see in my children a love between them that I missed with my brother and for most of my life with my sister’s. The love my children have for each other doesn’t completely erase the longing I have inside for that same sibling affection but it helps heal the wounds. My children aren’t perfect and neither am I. Like my mom did to me, I often tell them I love them. I pray they always know that. As significant to me is that they love each other. I pray they never take each other for granted. Though I’m sure my wife and I have missed the mark in our parenting and created some of the rifts they may experience between them, we always tried to treat them equitably and, mostly, lovingly. There is something special about sibling relationships. If you have experienced a great one, be grateful. Don’t take it for granted. It is a treasure not to be taken lightly.
Leaving A Legacy – Journal week 10
For this week’s Legacy Journal, there are a few more questions to answer about college, career dreams and growing up with brothers and sisters. This will be the last questions for May and then we start June’s questions next week. If you’ve been with us since we started in February, GOOD JOB!! If you are here for the first time, welcome. Over the past 4 months (Feb-May) we have been walking through a book called, A Father’s Legacy, Your Life Story In Your Own Words. It’s a journal that is filled with questions meant to draw water from our well of experiences as a boy, youth and man and share it in a way that is sometimes fun, sometimes philosophical but always revealing a little more about who we are as dads, husbands and men.
Most of us will breath our last breath and leave our children with nothing but an experiential journal. Those who are walking through this year long effort will enjoy the opportunity to share their life in more fulness with their children. So, whether you are just starting or maybe have missed a few weeks, no worries. Start today. You can purchase this journal, A Father’s Legacy online or start writing in your own journal or notebook. Just remember to put your responses into a book that you can give your children as a gift when you are completed. By the way, you can always find the past blogs for this project by searching for the category Leaving Your Legacy and all the previous blog posts will be shown. Without any further adieu, here are the last questions for May:
- If you had brothers and sisters, did you feel your parents treated you all the same? Why or why not? If you were an only child, did you wish for brothers and sisters? Why or why not?
- Did your high school have college career days? What field interested you most? What did you want to become when you grew up?
- If you went to college or to a career training school, where di you go and why?
- Where did you live when you were going to college or developing a career? Describe an unforgettable experience from that time in your life.
- Share some principles from Scripture on which you have chose to build your life.
My prayer for you, dad, is that as you go through these questions you a) have fun recalling some fun times in your life, b) are able to reconcile with some past issues that might rise to the surface as you go back in time and experience God’s grace and forgiveness as the circumstances warrant and c) know you were specifically created to be right where you are today as the father of your children. No matter where they are, you are their father. They need your love. They long for your affection. They hunger to know you are proud of them. It’s a noble calling to be a dad. Enjoy the ride.