My dad has told me several times over the recent past that he can’t talk to my brother like he talks to me. My brother is a highly intelligent and professionally successful forty six year old man and what my dad means specifically by his statement is that he can’t speak truth or have a genuinely open conversation with my brother about anything. If my dad were to attempt to do so, my brother would have a temper tantrum and yell abusively at him or withdraw immediately from the conversation and my dad’s presence or somehow punish my father in a retaliation like ostracizing him from his grandson forevermore.
This isn’t an overstatement or a paranoid delusion. It is a reality and I know that my father is speaking truth when he makes the statement. I believe he has reminded me of this reality as of late for two primary reasons.
I think it saddens him to know that he can never actually engage in a profoundly genuine interaction with my brother. He can’t speak his real mind or thoughts to his own son or be a father who can offer hard truths and external insight in the hope of helping his direct offspring slay his demons.
I also believe that my dad reminds me of this fact to let me know how happy he is that I allow him to express his core feelings, emotions, expressions, and reflections with me, without imparting a reflexive guilt, admonishment, or brandishing judgement upon him. He grew up in a family situation where less parental involvement occurred and tender heartfelt discussion was avoided. I find it to be very sad when families focus more upon pretending to be a family than actually behaving like one. To this day, I still have to remind him that it is okay for him to give me his opinion or advice. I remind him that I know he means only the best for me and that I don’t consider his recommendations an intrusive behavior or bully move. I tell him that it is okay to be my father in word and deed, that such is dearly appreciated, and that debates and disagreements do not have to cause pain, fear, withdrawal, guilt, or an end to any conversation or relationship. Those unfortunate endings, we can avoid together.
It is odd that I have spent my entire life trying to figure how to end the suffering of my mother and her “replacements” which I have always migrated towards in my relationships, without any significant success, and yet, I have been able to extract a man from the numbing collective matrix of deindividualized superficiality whom I once so falsely and so tragically perceived as the cause of every bit of all of that suffering. I have seen the transformation of my father. I have witnessed the person, the human, once lost completely within the suppressed and homogenized herd, once also nothing more than a sacrificial lamb of excuse for my mother, find his way. I have witnessed my dad’s rebirth and I believe his epiphany that real talk, real conversation, is the good stuff, the priceless tough love of the soul, that life is not made to do without.
My brother doesn’t realize that psychologically he is only a reverse imprint of my mother. Basically, he saw my mom treat my dad a certain way all of his life and his response was to then declare that no woman would ever treat him like my mom treated my dad. He suffers from severe insecurity, just like mom did and he continues to avoid any check or correction from reality that comes too close to making him face that fear. That’s why he chooses to control his reality by avoiding real conversation. That is why he is so terrified of such an interaction.
My dad expressed some guilt to me the other day for maybe not doing enough to push or convince or nurture my brother into facing his fears so that he might engage in objective reality. He felt he had let my brother down.
I had to remind my father that he had done nothing wrong. I admitted that my brother’s condition was sad and unfortunate, and potentially tragic, but that his life and his choices were solely up to him. His life and choices could not be forced upon him by someone else, even his own father. I told my dad that he had done all that he might and that he must let the issue rest until my brother decided it was time to help himself.
I said “Dad, as crazy and insane and confused as I have been, I never stopped asking the questions, never. I still remember mom asking me why, why I always asked such silly questions. I may have been mad or foolish or lost, but I always wanted to figure a way out of the trap. I wanted to overcome all of the endless shit and anxiety and anger that I felt and that I saw others experiencing. I could never dismiss the fact that such an achievement wasn’t possible. The joy and beauty I had felt in part could not be sacrificed or even balanced with all of the pain and suffering. It only made sense to figure out a path that would allow that joy and beauty to reign. I know I got lucky in many ways and I know I still make mistakes, but I figured it out. I got there because I never stopped asking questions and seeking the truths present within reality. I think you have done the same, dad, in your own way. Unfortunately, mom’s fear paralyzed her to the point where she decided to retreat within her own mind and never ask another legitimate question of the outside world ever again. She folded. That was her decision. Your other son, has proceeded in the same manner as mom. He isn’t asking any real questions of you or me because he is too fearful of where it might lead, the truths he would have to face if he did. We can’t do anything else for him until he decides he is ready to ask those real questions for himself. I wish it were different, but it’s not. I promise you that’s the truth.”