Merry Christmas: The Brother Brawl Edition in New Beginnings

  • Dec. 26, 2019, 7:45 p.m.
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  • Public

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas. Mine was very nice, even if I was kind of alone. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, my aunt called to invite me to visit. When I told her I already had plans to spend Thanksgiving with my sister, she invited me for Christmas. Since I had no other confirmed plans, I accepted her offer. Last Thursday, the 19th, my aunt calls me to inform me that they were doing Christmas early that Sunday since she and my uncle, along with one of my cousins, had travel plans almost immediately after the 25th.

I spent the weekend with my extended family and had an early Christmas on the 22nd, came home Monday with a bag of leftovers along with some other food gifts, and had a quiet Christmas by myself on Wednesday. Among my food gifts were four steaks and a pound of shrimp, so I made a surf and turf dinner yesterday. I have two steaks remaining, which I’ll probably eat this weekend.

My brother is mad at me and my sister, but I’m not sure he has a case. To give some context, I haven’t spoken to my brother since early last December. A couple of weeks before I went to visit Erika, he called me on Sunday as he usually did. Normally, he’ll talk about his grief over Mom and Dad being dead (he was not a very gracious son to them, and the guilt weighs on him), and complain about how much he hates his job. Conversations with him can be especially tedious, particularly when I give him some sound guidance on said issues, which he ignores, only to complain about the same issues next week. All that I can handle, but I can’t stand being bossed around. Maybe this is just the territory that comes with being the youngest, but I’m in may late 30s now, and everyone else has outgrown. Granted, my parents outgrew the behavior by dying, but that’s neither here nor there. Brother still likes to try to tell me how to live my life. For instance, he wanted me to go on a vacation with him. I’m a homebody, I’m focusing on saving my money, and traveling with him isn’t exactly easy. Nonetheless, here is a recreation of the conversation I had with him over and over and over again.

Him: Where do you want to go, Rob?
Me: Nowhere.
Him: But where do you want to go?
Me: Nowhere.
Him: You must want to go somewhere?
Me: I don’t.
Him: If you could go anywhere, where would you want to go?
Me: Nowhere.
Him: We could go to Nashville and eat some good barbeque and listen to live music.
Me: Becoming exasperated Live music involves crowds, which I don’t like, and I’m not going drive 4 hours on the road to eat barbeque.
Him: Don’t you want to go to Europe and see the cradle of civilization.
Me: Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization.
Him: Well, whatever?
Me: Don’t “whatever!” You don’t even know why you want to go. You just want to waste money and drag me down with you.

Well, to be fair, I usually only thought that last line. Travelling with him is just so difficult. A couple of years ago, my sister took her son on a short 3-4 day cruise because her eldest had been so demanding with her problems that she felt she had been slightly neglectful. She told Brother about the cruise, just to inform, not to invite. Well, Brother and his then fiancé booked a trip on the same cruise, called her back and said, “Surprise! We’re coming, too.” Remember, the purpose of that trip was just for she and her son to spend some quality time together, but she’s not going to tell Brother he can’t come. According to Sister, it wouldn’t have been so bad had he not been so awful. There’s too many people. The lines are too long. There are flies buzzing around the food. He was so bad, my nephew later asked that my brother not be included on any future vacation plans.

At one point, Brother, who lives in Miami, was considering moving to small community called Sanibel Island, and he just assumed I would eventually move down, too. Here’s another conversation we had multiple times.

Him: …and then you could eventually move down here.
Me: I don’t want to move to Florida.
Him: Why not?
Me: Because it’s hot.
Him: Yeah, but it’s really nice in the winter.
Me: I don’t care that it’s really nice in the winter, it’s hot like a wrestler’s arm pit the rest of the time, and besides that, ya’ll have hurricanes.
Him: But when a hurricane comes, you can just leave.
Me: I don’t want to have to pause my life to flee the state and worry whether my home is being destroyed.

On and on and on it went. Every. Single. Sunday. For years. I’d also have to explain to him what I cooked ad infinitum.

Him: What’d you make in the crockpot today (I once told him that I enjoy using a slow cooker for the convenience, so he now presumes that every dish I make is done in the slow cooker).
Me: I made insert relevant dish here.
Him: What’s in it?
Me: Sighs Well, let me go dig my recipe out of my filing cabinet and I’ll tell you (for the umpteenth time)…Okay here’s what’s in it lists ingredients.
Him: How do you make it?
Me: Reads instructions
Him: Do you have a grill.
Me: No, I don’t have a grill. I didn’t have a grill last week. I didn’t have a grill the week before that, or the week before that, and I won’t have a grill next week. Also, you know what’s in my recipes. I’ve read them to you over and over again every Sunday for over three years now, and you know you don’t like them. They have things like broccoli, onions, bell peppers, carrots, and other vegetables. You hate that stuff. You only like meat, cheese, and alcohol. Why do I have to reexplain this to you every weekend.

Again, I never actually said that last part. At least, nothing after, “No, I don’t have a grill.” One Sunday, I didn’t make anything, and he pulled that D-bag move wherein he got mad at me, I mirrored his reaction, then he faulted me for getting mad.

Him: What’d you make in the crockpot today, Rob?
Me: I didn’t do anything today.
Him: Whoa! Calm down, Rob. There’s no need to get mad. I just like to know what you make (despite the fact that I’ll never eat it).

Back to last December. He started pulling that move where you tell someone what to do by asking questions.

Him: Have you got her a gift?
Me: Yes, I got her such and such.
Him: Is that something she’s going to like. Do you thing maybe you should get her something more personal?
Me: I know she’s going to like it. She really enjoys said item.
Him: What about her parents. Have you gotten them a house gift?
Me: No, Erika said it wasn’t necessary.
Him: You know, a lot of times it’s customary to bring her parents a house gift.
Me: I talked to Erika about it, she said it absolutely wasn’t necessary.
Him: What clothes are you bringing?
Me: Just my regular everyday clothes.
Him: What if they want to go somewhere fancy. Do you think you should probably bring something dressier?
Me: Erika assured me that everything was very informal. I have no reason to doubt her.

At seems like he asked me something else at this point, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I politely, but forcefully, responded:

Me: David, I will navigate this relationship on my own. I know you want to mentor me, but I can handle it.

That “I know you want to mentor me” line set him off.

Him: I’M NOT TRYING TO MENTOR YOU, ROB! I just want to help you make the best decisions. Igottagonow,bye.

He conveniently hung up before I could point out that was the very definition of mentoring someone. That was the last time I spoke to him. He didn’t call me the Sunday after that, or the Sunday after that one, and so forth. Perhaps, I should have called him, but I was just so relieved not to have those tedious conversations with him every weekend.

Come to find out, while he was exasperating me, he was also wearing my sister’s patience, as well. He’d call her every week to complain. “I hate my job, Mom and Dad are dead, I just want to retire and do nothing, etc., etc.” Sometimes he’d be drunk. She just stopped taking his calls. When she and I had our first conversation on the subject, upon hearing my frustrations with him, Sister informed me, “He thinks he’s helping you out.” Are you kidding me! After that point, I really wasn’t interested in restarting those weekly phone calls.

All that said, my brother and I use the same financial planner. A few months after last Christmas, I found out through this mutual connection that David got a telecommute position with his employer and moved to Colorado. This past Thanksgiving, he never responded to our sister’s invitations, but when she asked for his address to mail him something, he gave her an address in Naples. I wondered if I had imagined that conversation with Gilbert because I couldn’t find the email or texts in which David sent us his Colorado address. I know he sent it because I looked up his condo on Zillow out of curiosity. As I was visiting with my aunt and uncle this past weekend, I found out through them that he had a stroke while in Colorado, so he moved back to Florida. That was all the information they volunteered, and I didn’t want to press them for more information, reveal the nature of the falling out, and open a whole new can of worms. Apparently, he’s getting better, though he struggles to find the right word at times.

I immediately texted Sister with this information. Mostly, I felt like she would want to know and would be distressed if I didn’t tell her and she found out later. She immediately put him on blast trying to open a line of communication. Ultimately, the response she did get from him was as follows:

“You or Rob were never into maintain communication on a regular basis. It’s ok. It’s actually easier for me that I’ve stopped trying and I’m good with the way things are now. We’re a see each other once a year situation and that’s ok, too. Perhaps we’ll try again next year for Thanksgiving.”

I’m not sure what to make of that. I know he’s upset, and I’m inclined to be supportive, but I’m afraid an apology may restart those aggravating conversations, and an apology along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but you gotta’ stop pissing me off” probably won’t be received well.

I just can’t deal with it again. Growing up, my mom was very domineering and controlling with me. When she died, tragic though it was, I figured I’d get to live my own life, but then my normally detached father latched on to me with a death grip. A decade after accommodating his neediness and clinginess, he passes, I think “now, I’m free,” and now my brother is doing both of their schticks at once. I want him to be happy. I want him to have peace, but the Well of Sacrifice and Emotional Fortitude from which I drew to be Dad’s caretaker is as dry as bone. I just can’t deal with this again.

Marg December 27, 2019

The only thing I can suggest is that having had the stroke, he may be a different person now and not so controlling. Might be worth finding out? If he reverts back to the previous behaviour, then fair enough, at least you tried. I understand the whole being done though - that’s a hell of a lot of micromanaging to put up with and it would drive anyone nuts!

Robbo Marg ⋅ December 27, 2019

Really?! Can a stroke physiologically change one's personality, or it a psychological response?

Marg Robbo ⋅ December 28, 2019

More of a psychological response I would say to what’s happened. It depends on the severity of the stroke. You can get a TIA which is hardly noticeable all the way up to one which affects speech, movement, cognition, swallowing, all sorts of stuff and can even result in death. So the scope is wide and an experience like that can change someone drastically. Do you know what kind of stroke he had, how he was affected?

Star Maiden December 31, 2019

I would just let it be. Maybe "plan" on getting the siblings together next year for something and see how it plays out.

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