2012 May 24
Happy Birthday, Bob
No, not Bob Dylan.
My brother, Bob, or Bobby, as we more often call him. He is baby brother number 2, born when I was five years old. He was named after our cousin, Bobby Rase, for whom our Mom had real affection. Bobby Rase may have also been my brother's Godfather, but those details have long since slipped from my memory.
I also have no memory of when Bobby was born, except that when our Mom was in the hospital, in those times, for about 5-7 days, she sent notes home for me and Billy regarding our new addition, as well as those little jellies that come with hospital toast. Other than that, I can't remember anything about that time, which would've been spring of 1955. No memory of the homecoming, nor of who cared for me and Billy while Daddy worked and Mom was away. Strange isn't it, what the mind hangs onto and what it allows to disappear?
I remember Bobby as a toddler and a pre-schooler, although we didn't use those terms in the 1950s. I remember him as a surly child with most people, although I also remember that he lit up around our Mom. I don't recall much interaction with Bobby, and the few vivid memories I have are of unpleasant situations. Sorry, Bobby. Perhaps that is as much my brain's fault, as it is your surliness as a kid.
One of the incidents that stands out in my memory was from a summer holiday, maybe Memorial Day, or July 4th, when Bobby was about 4 or 5. My Dad took us kids, who probably numbered five at the time, (although we may have only had four of us at home, if Billy had been relocated at that point. Another memory gap), to his sister's house about a half mile away. I am sure we walked there, because we didn't have a car. It was uphill over a cobblestone road, not heavily traveled at that time. At Aunt Barb's there was a huge (to us) grassy backyard and a very large covered porch. I remember Uncle Joe squirting us with a hose. It was nice to be with my Dad's family, aunts, uncles, cousins, but it didn't happen very often.
At some point in the course of the day, Bobby took it upon himself to leave. Again, the memory doesn't exist as to why. But, he left, and walked the half mile home alone. Not sure what he told Mom. What I most remember is the huge fight between our parents when Daddy brought the rest of us home later in the day. Mom was livid that such a small child was "allowed" to walk home alone. Daddy was just as livid that Bobby would take it upon himself to leave without saying a word to anyone. That argument is the thing I most remember about that day.
My other vivid memory of Bobby happened during the late spring of my senior year in high school, so it was 1968. Our Mom was in the hospital having her gallbladder removed. In 1968, that was major surgery, involving incisions and drainage tubes, so I'm guessing that Mummu was in the hospital for at least a week. One evening, Daddy had gone to the hospital to visit Mummy and we kids were home on our own. I was eighteen, Bobby, thirteen, and the other player in this memory, our brother Dave, was ten.
For some reason, Bobby and Davey had gotten into a yelling match, in the kitchen, that was becoming a fist fight. Since Bobby was older, bigger and heavier than Dave, I felt like it was my responsibility, as the oldest kid, to step in and put a stop to it before anybody got hurt or bloodied. I stepped between them, and got Bobby away from David. In his rage, Bobby proceeded to knock me to the floor, on my stomach, sit on my bottom and pummel my back with his fists, until Vinny, (our 11 year old brother) pulled him off me. After that experience, I was always a bit afraid of Bobby and kept some distance between us. In fact, I left the house that night and sat on the porch until Daddy got home from visiting Mom. I was too afraid to go back into the house with Bobby in there.
Years have gone by. Bobby has had plenty of ups and downs, and I have tried to be there for him, but there has never been the connection that I feel for most of my siblings.
Bobby was the first person in our family to become a Christian. Then, he met and married a woman who shared his values.
Then I came to faith in Christ, as my savior. I thought that finally Bobby and I had some common ground. Well, we do, but it isn't enough on which to build a friendship. We have too many personality differences and too much history. Not to say that I don't love him, because I do, but not in a way that makes me look forward to spending time together. I am sure the feeling is mutual. Bobby loves me, but not in a way that makes him want to spend time developing a relationship.
Bobby, I know you'll never read this, because of your seizure disorder and your inability to use a computer, but I had to write it anyway. I don't want you or me to feel guilt because we are not close as siblings. We both are who we are. I appreciate the poems and scripture you've shared at times when my life was a rocky path. I like remembering the times I came to hear you sing at your church, and the times you came for poetry and worship ant mine. I hope that in time, those memories will help to displace the older, less pleasant ones.
Perhaps one of the reasons we are not close is that we are too similar, carry too many of the same burdens. We each, in our own way, carry the burden of Mummy's mental illness and her tendency to play favorites among her kids. But know this: I do love you, as my brother in Christ and I do wish you a Happy Birthday.