As any of my close readers surely know, I’m a person who made a dramatic shift in location and lifestyle round about July 2016. So dramatic, that I’ve been having some difficulty relating to old friends and family members.
I don’t know if age is “relative,” but I do know that as I’m about to turn 65, I feel like a fit and vigorous, healthy man. Even though I earlier lamented that I’d gained weight and that my vital signs no longer boasted a 55 heart rate and a 100/65 blood pressure, I found recently when I had a check-up that my pulse is still 60, and my blood pressure 112/80. Although I suppose it’s inevitable that I eventually contract a serious disease, I’m not any more worried about it than I was twenty or thirty years ago. The idea that life stops at 65 flies in the face of the fact that after twelve years of homelessness, I feel that my life has just begun.
So when old friends contact me, I often feel a tinge of depression. Most of them are so depressed and distracted by life. Of course I have moments of depression, but I don’t live there. One of my friends never even laughs at my jokes anymore. It’s not that I mind being around depressed people when I’m not at depressed myself. I’m not that insensitive. It’s that it’s hard for me to deal with their expectation that I, too, am “supposed” to be feeling depressed or miserable, at this stage in my life.
At the local Recovery Center where I volunteer, I try to help other men who have had similar issues as my own, whether derived from homelessness or from some other form of sustained trauma. So I asked my counselors there about this dynamic.
One of the counselors suggested I don’t contact any of these people at all, even the ones whom I’ve always gotten on well with. She said that to continue buzzing them is only preventing me from fully embracing my new and better life.
Then I asked: “What about my brother?”
“That’s different,” she said. “Contact him about three times a year, unless he contacts you first.”
At that, I figured it was about time to contact him. So I did. He hasn’t contacted me back, but that’s just Steve. In some ways, he’s about as opposite of me as they come. Whereas I tend to use too many words to convey my point, he tends not to use enough. Also, his issues are much different than mine – what I know of them. Basically, he was brought up by my logical-scientific dad, and I was brought up by my emotional Sicilian mother. Somehow, she favored me, me being the first-born son. But Dad favored my brother. As the first-born son, I was supposed to follow in his footsteps. But the logical-scientific stuff was just — not me. It was Steve. So Dad taught my little brother everything he knew — so much so that Steve got 800’s all across the board on his achievement tests: physics, chemistry, and Math Level 2. He graduated with a 4.0 from the California Institute of Technology. I haven’t graduated from anywhere.
Not yet, anyway.
The above is my rendition of an old Hollies song I kinda like. In this day and age, we often feel that our siblings have been a burden to us. I often think I must have burdened my brother quite a bit when I was still homeless, continually looking for help that he was not disposed to provide. Similarly, I wonder if he feels he was burdened by me. It seems to be a dynamic in modern life that one brother will “succeed” financially, and the other won’t. I wonder if I gypped him out of some of his success, by leaning on him, as I did.
In any case, I thought of him as I played this song. If only we, as Christians or spiritual people, could freely bear the burdens of our birth brothers and sisters, the way we so readily bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Here’s hoping.
I love you, Steve.