Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

That other championship season

Three things before you read this entry:

1) I'm breaking my own blog code by writing about family in a less-than-amusing way.

2) I love my brother, and am very happy to have him in my life.

3) People who prefer writing over talking are terrible people. It's very passive-aggressive to write instead of confront. Shame on me.

Now, the entry:

My senior year of high school. Parents still married. Two car garage. I'd go out with friends at night, and return home, and park outside the (closed) two-car garage, open the side door, and expect to see one car or another gone forever. Except Mom got pregnant, which was unexpected. Two car garage and a pregnant Mom--both full for a while.

And then there was this: convincing everyone I was happy to have a sibling. I didn't know how to say my anxiety stemmed more from the recurring astonishment of both cars parked in the garage than it did from the fact that I was destined, fingers crossed no complications, to be a brother. During the pregnancy, I hoped the kid would keep my parents together, and sweated it out, and was constantly accused of not wanting the new kid when all I really wanted was.... but anyway.

The day Alex was born, Mom and Dad rushed off to the hospital. I stayed home for a while, knowing labor would be lengthy, and listened to the White album. Excited. My plan was to arrive at the hospital, film the birth, and prove I was thrilled with being a brother, except what actually happened was this: I arrived, video camera on my shoulder, at the hospital. Marched down the hall to the room where my mom was in labor. Heard her screams. Heard Dad begging her to push. Heard doctors and nurses scrambling about. I stared at the door, and thought, "Jesus, they're pulling one of the cars out of the garage, and I don't want to see it."

Some kids force their parents to get together, and some kids force their parents to stay together. Usually both kids fail. I forced my parents to get together, and Alex forced them to stay together, for a time. We both failed.

Kids come at the beginning of a marriage or they come at the end of a marriage, and in the end all you are left with is a marriage, with kids. The kids remain. The marriage is beside the point.

Keeping it simple.

I love Alex. The day he was born was one of the best days of my life, and the day he came home from the hospital? Wonderful. I still remember him in his crib, pushed into the sunlight leaking thru a window, his tiny hands cradling his tiny feet, stuffed animals surrounding him like an attending court, some animals slumped against the rails, some rigidly upright. I was grateful I had, finally, someone to share in the experience of family, someone bound to me in a unique way. A tiny child, yellow in the sun, holding his feet, to share my parents and my parentage.

But the two-car garage surprise continued. Alex was two when my parents finally gave it up, and the two-car garage had an empty space for my Mazda 626.

18 years is a long time between Child Number 1 and Child Number 2, and a lot of marriage from one kid to the next, and things change, people change, and when you have your first kid in the early 1970s and the second in the early 1990s, there's no way you can expect the two kids to have a similar upbringing.

Hell, even if you have two kids 9 months apart, the upbringing will be different. Genes, like marriages, change over time.

Alex was a brash, loud kid. I was quiet. He liked action figures. I liked paper dolls. He liked sports. I liked reading. He grew up with step-parents. I grew up with parents. I sealed the marriage. He was supposed to save it.

Confession: Every day in high school, the principal would announce, via the PA, in a crackly voice, the football team's stats: high scorers, winning touchdowns. He'd announce who won this or that 4H contest, this or that science contest, this or that spelling bee, this or that cheerleading contest. My junior year of high school, when I won an award for writing from Columbia University--the top award for high school fiction writing in the nation against some stiff competition--I didn't get an announcement. Sure, the principal had been in NYC with me when the award was announced. Sure, the principal had been the first to point out that I'd won. And sure, it was the first award I'd ever actually won, since up til then I'd been considered a half-wit or something. But I'd won it, and won it the following year as well, and not once, mixed in with the announcements of athletes winning this or that, or science geeks winning this or that, or band or drama geeks winning this or that, did the principal mention, via the crackly PA system, that I'd won my own award. And yes, I'd sit at my desk each day, listening to the morning crackly PA, and expect to hear, "And Marc Mitchell was awarded first prize in experimental fiction...."

And then my brother: articles written about him in the local paper. High school, he's throwing a football, and I'm getting emails from people I haven't spoken to in decades: "You're brother is amazing! He moves on the field like... Fucking amazing!" Dad sent me videos of Alex the Football Player. Mom sent me emails. I--who never gave a shit about football--go to actual games, high school games, and watch my little brother work his magic, sew his way thru Tetris-like walls of other high school kids, come out the other side, throw the touchdown pass.

Another confession: I wept uncontrollably the day I moved from AL to NY. I remember hugging Alex--then 11--and trying to say good-bye to him while standing next to a U-Haul containing everything Greg and I owned, and crying so hard that I thought I'd break him while holding him, and trying not to cry because, jesus, who wants to be weak at a time like that, at a time when you're saying goodbye to your younger brother? Just the day before, he'd written me a note telling me he'd always love me, and hoped to hear from me, and that he'd never forget me, and next to the U-Haul I'd already fell apart in front of him. I hated leaving him behind. I hated making him scared about the future, and hated making him wonder if he'd ever see me again.

A few weeks ago, Alex admitted to Dad, then later to Mom, he'd gotten a girl pregnant. The girl is still in high school; Alex is in college.

Weirdly, the girl recently went off to get herself fitted for a prom dress--as if she'll fit in it when prom comes around next spring. She still hasn't told her parents, and Alex is spending more time with her parents "to get them to like" him. As if they'll like him, once they find out what's happened.

He's no longer playing football--even tho he got a scholarship for it. Football, for most of his life, has been a Very Big Deal, and now, he's done with it, tho Dad claims that sometimes, when he comes home from work, he finds DVDs of Alex's old games around the DVD player, and Alex asleep on the couch, remote in hand, an old game playing out on the TV.

Alex has a weed habit. No shame in that! I have no problem with the consumption of weed--I don't do it because it makes me super-paranoid and psychotic, but recognize that others deal with the weed-effect just fine. Except Alex... doesn't deal with it well. He's irresponsible. He borrowed Dad's car, and left weed in it. Dad does not need to be pulled over while there's weed in the car.

Also, Alex borrowed This Young Woman's Vagina, and left seed in it. The baby. That's an issue.

Here's what I know about The Baby: Mama had several home pregnancy tests and all of them have come back positive. Mama's afraid--because, jesus, she's still in high school so of course she's afraid--to go to a doctor. Mama hasn't told her parents. Alex spends his time weeping and pretending everything is normal, spends his time trying to alienate our parents while wooing Mama's parents. The young woman is spotting (spotting her panties, not spotting weights). No doctor has been consulted. No doctor has checked in on the baby. No doctor has verified there is a baby. No doctor has told this young woman how to care for the hypothetical/probable baby Mama is carrying.

No parent has decided to step in and say, "For fuck sake, that's my grandchild so I must protect it."

No future uncle--me--has pitched a goddamn fit and demanded Alex man up and take the young woman to a physician for a check-up for the love of god because spotting can't be good. No future uncle has pointed out that, jesus christ, if you aren't going to abort it then take care of it dammit.

Here's all I think about: Alex in the sun, holding his tiny feet, and me not being jealous of him. Even tho Princeton desperately pursued him last year because of his talent, and my own talent didn't even get me an announcement over a PA in Alabama 20 years ago.

I love my brother. I want the best life for him. But christ, I assume I'll also like the nephew/niece.


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