Sunday, August 24, 2008

you don't need to emerge from nothing

Sometimes I think we have this competition to see which of us is crazier. Maybe it's more of a fight of crazy vs. crazy. Because in a battle between crazy and sane, crazy always wins.

The bro-seph and I are close, but not really. I have low expectations of him, which is a strange thing to say about family perhaps, but true nonetheless. And as a result, he seldom disappoints me. The other day, I was explaining this to SP, who was amazed at how cool I can be about my brother always spending time with his girlfriend or neglecting to call me or never getting me anything for my birthday. Somewhere, deep inside, I'm sure these things annoy me a little, but certainly not enough to throw a fit over.

I'd explained to SP that we didn't have that kind of relationship, the bro-seph and I. He's not the person I turn to when I'm really upset about something, or need to sort out a complex predicament. I'm not sure who I turn to in such situations anymore, but that's a story for another day. What I'd told SP, and I had really meant it, is that there is only one thing I ever really required of my brother- that he be around to listen when I need to talk about my parents.

About this, he is pretty good, and that's where he's needed. Even though he and I don't see eye to eye on my parents, he understands the situation better than anyone from the outside. There are stories that can be told, and people get a laugh out of it, but they fail to see the crazy, fail to see what was so troublesome about it.

I thought of this incident that occurred with my father years and years ago, when he was in full-on insanity mode, rather than his more baseline out-to-lunch state that he now inhabits rather well. We were all living on the East Coast at the time. The bro-seph had uncharacteristically fled the city for the weekend, and even more uncharacteristically had actually managed to really enjoy himself at my place. We'd planned to go hiking on Sunday, the perfect completion of a non-urban weekend. But that morning, at 6 a.m, my mother had called me. She'd simply said, "I thought you should know that your father is driving to your house right now."

They lived 5 hours away. My father had already offered to visit my brother that weekend, and my brother had declined. The bro-seph and I are united in one thing- we never find comfort from the doting of our parents, mostly because there is not much doting involved. As I tried to find out from my mother what had possessed my father, my brother drowsily arose and heard the ruckus. He wearily got on his cell phone and called my father, who cheerfully insisted he was coming to visit. My brother begged him not to come, reasoned that it wasn't too late for him to turn around, and that there was little for my father to do. But my father said he had to do it, had to see my brother for himself, make sure he was okay.

Four hours later, he had, indeed, showed up at my doorstep. We all regarded each other awkwardly. It was clear on my father's face. He could see, suddenly, how unnecessary it had been. He laughed nervously. My brother shook his head, all the relief he'd amassed over the previous day gone. And just like that, my father got back into his car, and drove the 5 hours back home.

Whenever my brother and I have tried to tell this story to any friend, the reaction is always the same- omg, your dad's, like, so sweet to come all that way just to see you. I understand why people think that. I even understand how that is partly true. But when you've gone through a lifetime of wtf, insanity-laced incidents, this sort of thing is just symptomatic. It's just like the clinical syndromes I'm studying right now- one symptom, by itself, seems innocuous, nothing to worry about, but combine it with a good history, and all of a sudden, you're talking major illness.

The bro-seph gets that, and he'd probably get it if I called him right now. One of my friends is a little bit teetering on the verge of nutso-land right now. The latest approach has been disguising death-clutching co-dependence as concern about me. But let's call a spade a spade- the concern about me stems from my lack of availability to be a crutch. Just as with my dad, I'm pretty sure that anyone else would have the predictable reaction of awww, how sweet, he's looking out for you or there would be the even more tragically misguided ohhhh, maybe he likes you likes you, you know?

The bro-seph would know, though. He'd know in a heartbeat, because he's seen this kind of crazy. My dad didn't drive 5 hours out of concern for my brother, or if he did, it was horribly bad judgment- my brother certainly didn't benefit from the incident. No, there's no getting around the fact that my dad was motivated by making himself feel better. And, granted, that's fair game, especially when family is involved.

But I was too busy or too lazy or too tired to explain it all to my brother. He'd have understood, but it's not really understanding I need- I just need a break from it. So I wound up fighting crazy with crazy. I turned off my phone and went walkabout for a little while. It wasn't a particularly winning strategy, and I really now have left the impression that I am losing my mind a little bit. Sometimes it's better to give someone that notion than to confront them with the wrongheadedness of their ways, especially when they are in an unstable state. Or maybe I really am just crazy myself.

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