Brothers and Other Strangeness

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There are however, a group of men who are not swayed by the power of the W-Card: brothers. I have four of them. Well, three and a half if you want an exact accounting. My father, Ed, was quite the “homme de ville.” I am not certain when he first married, but I do know that son #1 was born in August of 1938. He was an only child and, when his mother passed away, he was only ten years old. Dad did not know quite what to do with a ten year old boy. He was a thirty-five year old widow. A son of privilege born in an age when men went to work and women stayed home to take care of the kid(s). It’s funny but I never thought about Dad’s early widower-status until this very moment. I thought about the sadness, and anger, my older brother has carried with him for over fifty years, but never thought about Dad’s plight. Hmm, note to self for later consideration.

Anyway, according to the oral histories I have been privy to, one thing Dad was especially good at was hooking up with the babes. He found one, a nurse, who seemed willing to marry him and take on the responsibilities of raising the child of another woman. Unfortunately he didn’t look too deeply into her quals as she turned out to be a violent, raging alcoholic. Son #1 has told me stories about being chased out of their home, a gentleman’s farm, by this woman, a crazed drunk wielding a knife.

At some point during this insanity, Dad met my mom. She was his boss’ secretary but when the boss was gone, she was assigned to him. I like this part of the story (the office romance). I should mention that my mother was a saint. Seriously. I am still surprised the Vatican hasn’t processed the paperwork. My mother was a kind, caring, gentle soft-spoken woman. She gave of her time and treasure to a church she was devoted to. She was seventeen years younger than my father. She was a self-declared “old maid” who thought her chances of getting married were slim and none. Her time was divided between family, work, and church.

She hadn’t counted on Ed showing up. Well, Mr. Smooth swept her off her feet. He was in his fifties by now, and she was in her thirties. She fell head over heels in love with him and he for her. Unfortunately, there was that little issue of wife #2. Oh, did I mention that the church Mom was so devoted to was Roman Catholic? My heritage is strongly Irish Roman Catholic – both sides, all the way back.

This was pre-Vatican II. That might not mean anything to non-practitioners but to those of “the faith,” it was a very, very strict time. The mass was still in Latin; the Irish were going forth and procreating: and there was absolutely NO divorces allowed (and forget about annulments). So, my mother, who had wanted to be a nun but her parents forbid it (they told her that only poor people were nuns. note — they were “depression poor” but that somehow didn’t qualify) was in a place she had never imagined – she had to choose between her church and this handsome, charmer who was sweeping her off her feet.

Obviously, by my mere presence on this earth, she chose the latter. But it wasn’t quite a slam dunk. The church wasn’t the only institution who had problems with divorce. The State of New York wasn’t exactly open to the idea either. A lot of this history is a little fuzzy, and some of what I was told was not exactly the same version my older brother recently revealed to me, but the end of the saga involves a large exchange of money, property, and a trip to Connecticut to a justice of the peace and then Baby Me. But that list was not necessarily in the order I was originally lead to believe. Ahem.

But this post is about brothers, not me, and I have plenty of them. After me, came three more little gifts from God. Brother #2 was a year and ten months after me; then Brother #3 showed up another 18 months later; and finally Brother #4 made his appearance on December 23, 1964. My mother was 44 years old and my father was 61. The nurse in the maternity ward, a fine Irish lass, gave my father a tongue lashing that went something like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph…. would you leave the poor woman alone????” For this to be really amusing you have to say it out loud in a stern voice with an Irish accent.

I was devastated upon learning of Brother #4 as I was about to turn seven years old and I had made my need for a sister abundantly clear. My sister was going to be named “Nancy” and I had big, big plans. When my mother called from the hospital to tell me that Lawrence, not Nancy, was the newest member of our clan, I told her “Don’t bother coming home” and hung up on her. Clearly I had issues. And no sister. Ever. The Irish nurse’s admonition wasn’t enough — nature intervened. My mother’s biological clock advanced to non-childbearing status. How do I know? Let’s just say that despite their advanced years my parents would have fit in quite nicely at Woodstock. Not the rock and roll, dope smoking part of Woodstock but the free love and clothing-optional part of Woodstock. Yes, my parents were love monkeys.

We lived in a large, 100 plus year old home out in the country. The house was originally a Baptist rectory and there was a creek that ran behind the house. There were steps down to the creek where the young Christians were dunked as part of their baptismal ritual. These same steps were used, decades later, by two aging, frisky married lovers who enjoyed skinny dipping late at night after the kids went to bed. How do I know this? My bedroom window faced the creek. Yup, it was not uncommon to hear the sounds of giggling and splashing as I dozed off to sleep

They also did not own pajamas. This little bit of trivia probably comes under the category of TMI, but I believe it does explain why my brothers and I are not easily shocked. Growing up in our house was an experiment in open living. Smoking, drinking, nudity … it was an interesting, unusual childhood. Heck, it was the 60’s. It was an interesting, unusual time.

It also might explain why my brothers seem to be the only men in my life that I cannot sway through the magic of the W-Card. And, for the purpose of this diatribe, I am primarily referring to my three younger brothers. The eldest brother is exempt from many of these discussions as he only shares one parent, is twenty years older, and lives three thousand miles away. The three younger brothers watched as I, the only daughter, was given princess status in our childhood home. I did not have to share a room. My clothing was never from another sibling. And I always got to pick first (“Ladies before gentlemen” — ah, I miss those days). So, while this made for a glorious childhood for ME, there might possibly be some unresolved issues with my little brothers when it comes to giving in to my needs, wishes and/or demands.

Don’t get me wrong… they were all incredible, absolutely, positively, freaking incredible when my husband died. I could not have survived those first few months without them. Few months? Who am I kidding? The first year and then some. When I called to them from the hospital, they were there in moments. When I had to go to the funeral home, the florist, the cemetery, and all the other places involved with the business of dying, they were right there holding me up and helping me get it done. If I called any one of them right now, they would be here in a NY minute. But that’s not because of the W-Card.

It turns out there were some other unintended consequences of my husband’s death. I discovered how very blessed I am in so very many ways. I found out that I have the most amazing family and friends. And that family, those brothers of mine and the women who married them, actually do love me and care about me. (This is where they, fifty-something year old men, fall down and make gagging noises. Really mature, boys.)

I don’t need to pull the W-Card. They do it for free. No charge.

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