My Estranged Brother Who Isn’t Jerry

My Estranged Brother Who Isn’t Jerry

I have no sisters and an only brother, eleven years my senior. Reportedly, he was the happiest young boy ever when our mother brought him a baby sister from the hospital. (That says a lot, as I assume an average person would much rather have a puppy or a kitty than a sibling. I’ll have the kitty, please.) Throughout our respective childhoods, we liked each other a lot, though we rarely spent time together. Of course, a sixteen-year-old wants to hang out with his peers and looks to procuring beer and fags, not to play with a first-grader. (Dear North American reader, my brother doesn’t happen to be gay, neither was he chasing gays, fags is what cigarettes are called in these parts.)

I couldn’t pronounce the r in George until an alarmingly advanced age, so I whimsically renamed my brother George to Jerry. (Why, yes, I know now, but I didn’t notice back then that there is not one, but double r in Jerry.) George aka Jerry had it tough, as became immediately clear to me when I got old enough to have some sense of my surroundings. A secondary school and later a vocational school dropout, he was persecuted by our parents and sought refuge with relatives, friends and whatnot. Occasionally he confided in me, and once he took me to his companions’ den. It was in a dilapidated summer house in a park, and the entry was through a trap door in the ceiling. There was smoking, drinking and card playing. I loved it.

My brother being impressed
My brother being impressed

At eighteen, my brother was drafted for compulsory military service. He hated it, attempted to desert and was eventually diagnosed with asthma and dismissed. (Rumour has it that not before he chain-smoked two packets of cigarettes, resulting in an asthmatic seizure.) That much to me taking pride in my soldier brother, comely in a new buzz cut and uniform, complete with a cap. I didn’t have the chance to spot him marching in formation, though we travelled across the country to attend a parade of new recruits swearing their oath. Jerry swore nothing because he was assigned to guarding the flag somewhere off the parade square. (It’s not like anyone would steal a flag, right?)

At twenty-one, my brother rang the doorbell one winter evening after dark and asked me to go ice-skating with him for a while. Surprisingly, my mother allowed me to go. Jerry was not alone. I never realised he was dating someone, and his announcement that he was getting married came out of nowhere. The invitation to go skating was to introduce me to his fiancée. First I didn’t mind her, and then she hugely impressed me with her ability to skate backwards. Several months later, when the bride-to-be turned eighteen and was legally old enough to marry, the reason for the unexpected marriage grew rather visible. I became an aunt to a newborn boy when I was only ten.

Ten years later, having divorced and then dated a series of wildly different girls, my brother did the right thing. He decided to complete his secondary education, whose lack was a major hindrance to his getting any other than a menial job. I wrote his English homework for him. (But I deny it.) Before the final exams, he would sit at home in a room next to mine and we would study simultaneously. My method was to learn things by heart, his was to transcribe bits from books in a notebook, very slowly and consciously. We graduated in the same year. He didn’t know that the exam would make no difference for his career.

My mother being impressed
My mother being impressed

My brother doesn’t like my husband. He never did. I wonder why. Did I complain of him unwisely when he was yet my boyfriend and failed to stress that no matter his shortcomings, I’m better off with than without him? (That’s how romantic I am.) Perhaps Jerry mistakenly believes otherwise. He didn’t show up for my wedding, though I and my significant other were there when he re-married, and I was looking forward to returning the invitation. Accidentally, my family was in the midst of an entangled feud then, and he was the only relative whom I invited. (Because I’m mean.)

Since then, we had several lengthy phone calls. It was always me calling because Jerry wouldn’t pay for the call. Whatever, I always enjoyed the good luck of being able to afford these little things. On the phone, Jerry would unfalteringly moan about his lot. It’s not like he has no reasons to complain, but it’s no great fun to listen. It hardly left me with the impression of having had a pleasant chat and actually learned what my sibling was up to. He disowned me for talking to the wrong relative in our ongoing family feud. I don’t plan to reach out to him any time soon; I prefer to think of him as the young boy who was very fond of his baby sister.

53 thoughts on “My Estranged Brother Who Isn’t Jerry

    1. You are quite lucky to have managed to avoid family feuds. It’s a nasty business and many people get caught in that, no matter that they may have no actual share in the disagreement. The worst thing is that the disagreements are often so petty. My husband’s family, for example, argued several years ago about where precisely to place the mailbox — the argument lasted for months and it was absurd.

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          1. Yes, we have a ‘letter box’ (slit in the door, with a flap)or, if you are living really out of the way, you have a post office box, and you collect your mail from the local post office. 🙂

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          2. Ah, I see! Well, we have an actual mailbox and it’s a bother because it is located on the driveway and it’s so poorly made that when it rains, our post gets wet. We don’t consider relocating the mailbox, though, seeing that the mailbox turned into a family feud with our relatives…

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  1. That’s a very open and frank piece. As someone who is also estranged from an older brother (9 years older than me), I found it rather emotive. Families are strange and contain odd dynamics at times. I rather suspect the families that look the most superficially normal and happy are the ones with the most complex difficulties.

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    1. So sorry to hear that you’re in a similar situation. I had no idea. In case you’re interested to hear that, writing this post helped me a lot to sort out my ideas about my relationship with my brother; and it brought a minor cathartic effect too. No miracle, but a little help at least. I’m sorry if the post upset you, I didn’t quite realise that this may happen. I wish I could help, but you see that I’m unable to help even myself…

      And I do agree that it’s often the most “normal” looking families, whatever that means, that are most torn under the surface. I bet our family looked quite happy, even though there were always some kind of troubles underneath.

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      1. I wasn’t upset by your writing, don’t worry – and there’s no cause for an apology even if it had – just that it had an emotional resonance for me.

        My own circumstances are different in that we are half-siblings raised apart so we didn’t choose or cause the estrangement in any way, it just happened. The same is not true when it came to my relationship with my other half-brothers (one of whom was also raised in a different household) but personality has some impact too. My brother chooses to not re-enter the fold for his own enigmatic reasons I’m sure. I’ve reached an age and stage of life where I just accept that that is how things are.

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        1. Oh I see… It’s all even sadder when there’s no apparent reason for two family members to drift apart, whether they are half-siblings or otherwise related. But I love that you say you’ve reached an age and stage when you accept things as they are — that’s a sensible approach that I hope to adopt too… So, here’s to the happiness of our closest family at least!

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  2. I know I don’t know you but reading this made me quite sad.
    My father fell out with his parents and three sisters for most of his life. It made him angry and bitter, and it was difficult for all of us to know that we had first cousins we would never know. Eventually, after the death of his parents, he began speaking to his sisters again. I’m not saying my father is perfect now, but letting go of that anger has helped him immeasurably.
    Family feuds are terrible, and while a lot of the time, anger is completely justified, it’s also pointless. I’m glad that you are choosing to focus on something positive.

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    1. Hello and thank you for sharing your difficult experience! I’m sorry that my post reminded you of your troubled father, yet your story has a sort of a happy ending at last! It’s good to hear.

      Family relationships are clearly hard, and I would love to see my family reconciled, but I’m poor at dealing with people. When I tried to bring some of them together, it only made everyone more upset and it didn’t work. I hope that with time, we’ll all come to our senses…

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      1. I know it’s a cliche, but I think these things take time. It was a huge healer for my family. Sometimes though, things just can’t be fixed and they are better left alone. My mother left my father four years ago and they will never speak again; there’s too much pain. Hopefully, in your situation, this isn’t the case though.

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        1. Cliche or not, it’s true that things take time. The same here — my parents divorced about a decade ago and they don’t talk to each other — normally it’s none of my business, but it was a problem when I was deciding whom to invite to my wedding. I couldn’t invite both of them, so I invited none. Well, let’s cherish those family members who talk to us 🙂

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          1. Aw I’m sorry to hear that. My brother’s wedding was the first time my parents saw each other in years. They didn’t speak and you could’ve cut the tension with a knife. I was sat between them. It was awful. You made the right decision 🙂

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          2. Oh dear, this is so saddening. But thank you for your reassurance. I know it sounds awful that I didn’t invite my parents for my wedding, but they can’t coexist in one room. And I wanted no fights, obviously. Thank you again for all your kind words, it means a lot to me!

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          3. I think I won’t be able to have them at my own wedding. It’s sad but I can’t imagine how stressful it would be trying to keep them apart.

            It’s funny; I rarely open up like this but I’ve found it so easy to be honest here. I think it was the honesty of your post that helped! So thank you!

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          4. Yes, it is sad. But if there’s still time before you get married, you can at least try to give your parents a warning that they’ll miss your big day unless they learn to get along. I’m not convinced that this would work; but in any case, the fault is with the parents here, though I hate to say it, not with you.

            It is funny for sure, I’m not into confessions either, and this post was very untypical of me. I’ve now found out that it helps a bit to discuss matters with other bloggers, who have similar issues 🙂 Thank you for taking part! It means a lot!

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      1. It’s sad, you know, that everybody are impressed with you when you are born, but later, it slowly starts fading away? I have first-hand experience in that. I was born after six continuous grandsons, and my grandparents were overjoyed to see a girl. Now, it is nothing special…

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        1. I agree with all that you say here. Of course that everyone is impressed with a new baby, especially when it happens to be of the preferred sex. Like you, I was also all the more welcome for being a girl — there already was a boy in the family, so a girl was wished for for a change. I can’t say that no one is impressed with me anymore — my mother overestimates my modest achievements; though my father is perfectly unimpressed. So I guess that makes it balanced 🙂

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          1. Lucky you. I end up trying to live up to everybody’s expectations at the same time and end up becoming nuts. Parents expect me to be a little more mild-manners while my aunts expect me to be more boisterous to match up with my cousins. In this process, I mix up one identity with another, and take a long, long time to get it back. Only to lose it again 😛

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          2. Oh dear, that sounds so complicated! It’s hard to please everyone, especially when the expectations put on you are so wildly different. It’s none of my business to tell you what to do, but it would seem best just to try to retrieve yourself and make your family get used to it. Of course, it’s easier said than done…

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          1. Actually, I like your avatar. At first, I thought it was a robin, you know. I tried blurring myself, but in the end I ended up looking like the sewage dressed up in black and white 😛

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          2. Ooh, a robin! That’s nice that my avatar looks like a robin 🙂 I put minimum effort into creating it, it’s a naturally blurry photo that was shot by my husband, and I just cut out the part I wanted. The idea of sewage dressed up in black and white, haha 😀

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  3. I really enjoyed this story on many levels, even though it seems like an unfinished family story and sad for your brother. I think he’s the one missing out and probably wouldn’t have appreciated any boyfriend you had. On another note, I wonder if the companions den is still there??

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    1. Thanks for reading my depressive story… It has a sort of a healing effect for me to discuss it…. Yes, it is an unfinished story, but that’s how it is — one day my brother just texted me that I was dead to him and that was the end of it 😦 Of course I texted him back and tried to explain etc. but to no avail. On a happier note, I’d love to know if the companions’ den is still there! I haven’t been to the village where I grew up possibly for a decade or so, there’s nothing there for me anymore, but if I happen to return there, I’ll definitely go and check out the place!!

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  4. Families are not easy. There are always undercurrents a minor jealousies. Thankfully in our family the latter have remained minor, and the ‘currents’ are definitely ‘under’.

    By thr way, I haven’t forgotten your kind offer, will be in touch when things are sorted.

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  5. Sorry to hear that you don’t have the best relationship with your brother. It sounds like the two of you are two different people with different perspectives. Sometimes we drift apart as we grow older. I don’t have a good relationship with my brother too. He loves picking on me and keeps laughing at me for no reason. As such, we don’t talk much at all. Or rather, talk when we need to like passing each other food at dinner.

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    1. Sorry to hear that… Hopefully your brother will grow out of his manners, boys tend to be immature for a long time… But you nailed it, about my brother and me, we’re as different as two people can be. It’s rather strange, considering that we are siblings and we brought up in very much the same manner. Perhaps my brother is one of those boys who never grow up out of their immaturity…

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  6. Mara,

    Do you know the Biblical meaning of your name? If you have time, you might read Ruth 1:20. There is another reference to a place called MARAH, where Moses made the bitter waters sweet (Exod. 15:23).

    Do you identify with that meaning or have you moved passed that?

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    1. Hello, Beth, thanks a lot for this information! I wasn’t aware of that. Actually, it’s not my “real” name but a blogging name that I picked myself — which may or may not make it all the more resonant. I hate to say it but as a nonbeliever, I not only wasn’t aware of the implications but also I don’t ascribe them a too significant meaning. Nevertheless, I do love to learn a thing or two, so your explanation was more than welcome!

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      1. This may be going to the wrong person. I wanted to reply to Mara. Are you one and the same?

        My elder brother was four years older than I and quite the favored young man. Our parents apparently told him he was getting a new playmate–wrong thing to say to a four year-old boy!
        The day I was born he took one look at me and said, “She can play with me like my dog!”

        He used to take his dog by the hind legs and swing it around and then dropping it. No, I could not play with him like that. Then he looked at me a while longer and declared, “She is a girl and has no teeth. Why would I want to play with her?”

        My life was in danger until he finally left home when he was fifteen. I lived in mortal fear of what new death he had planned for me. You may think I am joking or exaggerating, but I am not.

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        1. Hello, Beth! Why, yes, here’s Mara, not sure if the right one, but Mara nonetheless 🙂

          Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you. Some children are so shockingly cruel. I consider myself fortunate that at least my childhood with my brother was good and safe.

          I wish you all the best.

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          1. Yesterday, when I posted my comment, the reply gave another person’s name. Today it is working just fine and that crazy “mystery lady” is not here. 😉

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  7. I’m blessed to be very close with my only brother. But I understand this whole feud fiasco scenario because this happened for, I don’t know, over 15 years between my Dad and 2 of his sisters. The youngest would act as owl and convey messages, and my Dad hung out with his 2 brothers (they too suffered the cold war with said sisters). Thing is the feud was very one-sided because my Dad had no idea it was going on until those 2 sisters blatantly ignored him when they met at a food court. To this day, we don’t know what caused the friction but it ended abruptly 7, 8 years ago. Everyone’s friends now but I’m wary. It made no sense then and it’s disconcerting how they ostracised our entire family at a whim, without a care for blood? I would’ve acted the way you did in your personal situation. That said, it’s clear you do still love your brother and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he will start remembering that, and show it.

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    1. Hello, Sheela, thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts! It means a lot, and I very much appreciate it. It’s in a way comforting to see that other families have similarly bad long-lasting arguments; on the other hand, it’s so saddening to see that reasonable human beings behave like immature kids. I’m happy for your family being fine again though! I sure love my brother very much, he’s my only brother and I’m not getting another, and he never hurt me, but he’s a difficult person and I don’t know how to approach him. I do hope that time maybe will bring some solution. Thanks again for your thoughts, and here’s to reconciliation and good relationships!

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        1. Haha, it’s funny that the word fag for cigarettes is so disputed — I realise its meaning in North America, but in the rest of the world, it seems to be quite OK. At least as far as I know! Thanks for the chat and happy blogging 🙂

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  8. Never give up on your family! Years have a way of changing a person, and someday he may come around. Where are you from where cigs are called fags? That one threw me for a loop!

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    1. Hello, Kiersten, thanks for stopping by! No way am I giving up on my family; I may not intend to contact my brother for the moment, but I’m sure I’m going to try that later again. And should a miracle happen and should he reach out to me, of course I’d be happy to start anew 🙂

      Well, I’m from the Czech Republic, so we don’t call cigs fags really, but I’ve seen this word countlessly in contemporary British, especially Scottish fiction, and a dictionary confirmed that in Britain this is a legit usage 🙂

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