community · family · forgiveness · love · maturity · recovery · San Francisco · willingness

Three’s Company

Best Laid Plans are luckily not always the best plans.
Overambitious as visits with family usually are, my brother Ben and I did not
get to see all of San Francisco in an hour and a half. He did say the sweetest
thing, as we swept back into the car off of Pier 39 on our way to Lombard
Street – that he came here to see me, not San Francisco.
My brother is 3 years younger than me, lives in New Jersey,
and is a highlight of my life. It was not always rainbows and puppy dogs between
us, but the last few years have seen a dramatic, but incremental shift toward
mutuality, trust, and love. It’s been one of the greatest gifts that I’ve
gotten, this renewal of our relationship on a basis of support and respect and
admiration – to get to know each other as adults, or as adult as we are, rather
than as two kids fighting each other for the crumbs of whatever there was
So, he and I got to briefly traipse around those tourist
spots, and then had to get to SFO to pick up our mom. Another relationship which
has formed and reformed many, many times. It’s in an iteration that neither of
us know, and so we’re sometimes formal, hoping not to cross boundaries or
offend, and we’re sometimes deep, treading carefully for the same reasons as
above. Mostly, we’re funny. Mostly, the three of us together is like an old
left-off conversation, dotted with movie references, and cackles of laughter –
though my brother chortles rather than cackles.
An old boyfriend of mine got to meet her once when she came
to visit me in San Francisco about 4 years ago. He said that we laugh the same.
I’m sure we’re many things the same – sometimes I catch the strangest sights of
myself, and am struck at how much that’s a “mom” move – reaching for a kitchen
cabinet, I see the hollow of my thin, graceful wrist, and it’s hers that I see
and remember. Sometimes it’s the way I click my fingers together when I’m
nervous or anxious. And sometimes, it’s strange things that I’ve picked up from
her, like when I was in college, cutting up chicken breasts in the kitchen, and
I started clucking at the chicken – and didn’t even notice it until my roommate
came it and laughed – this, is a mom move.
Irreverent, sensitive as all get out, brilliant, worried,
with a kind creamy center like the inside of a cadburry egg that you cradle so
you don’t crush it. That’s my mom, and also my brother and me. We each have
varying degrees of it, but we are apples not fallen far from the tree. And
however embarrassing it was growing up without cable or Nintendo, so that we
watched Fred & Ginger movies, and all the movie musicals, and The Marx
Brothers, so that no one our ages would get our references, we’re older now,
and people still may not get our references, but I can appreciate that we have
them at all.
A friend of mine told me maybe a year or more ago, how
distancing she felt that her father could really only communicate in quotes
from movies – that it wasn’t personal enough or intimate enough. I shared with
her my and my brother’s experience, and said, for me, now, it’s actually one of
the ways we do share intimacy – sharing
something, a witticism, with each other that we know the other will get, and so
we bond and revel in our commonalities.
My cell phone broke recently. In it were saved text messages
over the course of several years. I’m a hoarder of texts. One of the last that
I know I have saved in there is from my brother a few weeks ago: “Of course
your president is an actor – he has to look good on television.”
For those uninitiated, this is a Back to the Future quote, just one in the long continuous conversation
that my brother, and mom, and I get to share with each other across time and
We cannot be present in person with each other often. And
when we are, we’re all still learning how to relate in a way that is open
without overreaching, and fun without being superficial, among many more
balancing acts that all relationships aim to master, but likely never fully
achieve. We figured out that the last time the three of us were together was
about 3 or 4 years ago.
Last night, at dinner, which didn’t go “as planned,” as my
dad and his fiancé were stuck in the city and didn’t make it to the ceremony at
school, it went perfectly. It wasn’t as I’d planned, it was better. And the
three of us delighted in the bright, animated, multi-faceted, infinitely
tangential company of one another.
For all that has come before, for all that it took to get us
to that dinner table, for all that will continue to need to happen to help us
show up to tables like that with one another, I have a family whom I love, and
who love me dearly.
TODAY’S GRADUATION DAY! So, as Abe Lincoln said,
Be excellent to each other, and… PARTY ON DUDES!!!

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