He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

photo(6)He was my brother, and sometimes he got pretty heavy.  ~ Pat

The Korean Peninsula is perhaps the most talked-about item in the news nowadays.  At least that is the case here in the United States.  And all the chatter about North Korea/South Korea has caused me to think a great deal about my late older brother.

Jack was his name and he spent about fourteen months in South Korea with the US Army.  I can’t remember the exact dates of his tenure there but I do know that a part of it would have been in 1961, about eight years after the so-called end of the Korean Conflict.  I think of it as one of the many “conflicts” the US should never have entered. Peninsula-Korean-001

My uncle fought in Korea.  Like many veterans of war, he wouldn’t talk about it.  I remember one time when he had been drinking heavily he said, “It isn’t fun seeing your buddies’ arms and legs flying through the air.”  That’s the only time I ever heard him mention it.  He received a bullet wound in his wrist.  I used to ask him about the scar but he would make up some joke about how it might have happened.

Back to my brother.  Jack used to say that the best he could tell, he and the other GI’s were in South Korea to play war games at the border from time to time, and to sit around playing cards and drinking beer the rest of the time.  He told me the North Koreans and the Chinese would line up their tanks at the border and aim them toward the troops.  Then the US Army would do the same, aiming at the North.  The North would retreat.  Then the US troops would retreat and go back to their beer.  I realize that not all American soldiers were sitting around drinking beer but that would have been important to my brother.  He had the genetic predisposition to alcoholism which has been the demise of many of my relatives.

I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR as I was driving home from Chapel Hill this week.  The first hour Diane and her guests discussed the scary young President of North Korea and his irresponsible threats.  A guest on the show talked about the war games that are going on now at the North-South border.  The description sounded almost exactly like the one given by my brother more than fifty years ago.  I think my jaw dropped.  Are we still doing that!?  Should I take heart in the fact that there’s now a woman in charge in S. Korea?  I can hope.

The black and white photo at the top of this post is my brother surrounded by children while he was in Asia.  Jack is the tall one with blond hair.  😉  This is my favorite shot of him.  I’m not sure where he was at the time but wherever he went the children gathered around him.  Dogs liked him too.  The ubiquitous but vague they say that anyone who’s loved by children and dogs can’t be all bad.  Many times that thought comforted me.

My brother died at the age of sixty-one of an alcohol and drug overdose.  That was almost eleven years ago.  I still miss him.  When I think of him I try to remember his charming smile, his sense of humor, his big heart for animals and children.  My daughters loved him, as did the older grandchildren.  The younger ones either didn’t meet him or were too young to remember him.  It gives me pleasure to show them this snapshot of him and to tell them they would have loved him.  RIP Jack T.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by Neil Diamond

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Who’s on first?

Have you ever explained something to someone and neither of you understood what the other was trying to say?  When no matter what you said you couldn’t make your message clear?  It becomes a comedy of errors sometimes and you just have to laugh about it.  Abbott and Costello did a skit called “Who’s on first?” in their 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties, which perfectly demonstrates what I’m talking about.  It gets funnier every time I hear it.  Click here if you’d like to watch the clip.  If you’re a baseball fan you’ll love this. It’s a classic.  And hilarious even if you’re not a fan.

I recently had a conversation with a woman at church.  We were making plans to combine the Portuguese and Spanish services on Sunday and I asked her a question about the order of songs in the service.  I usually create the schedule, with the help of the pastor, on Friday night at rehearsal.  This time a third party, M, had set up the schedule.  She didn’t understand what I was asking and I was clumsily trying to explain.  After a bit of incomplete/incompetent (on my part) dialogue, I looked at her and said, “I don’t understand.”  She replied just as simply, “What don’t you understand?”  Aaarrgghh!  Deadlock.  I’m laughing as I recall this incident.  As it turns out, it was my not understanding the Portuguese that was causing the problem.  I realized that after she went back to rehearsing her music and I was able to focus singly on what was in front of me.  As soon as I caught her eye, I gave her a thumbs up to let her know I had resolved my issue.  Fortunately we are both mature enough to realize it was no big deal.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

On a more serious note, have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t want/refuses to communicate with you?  Well, I have and it isn’t pretty.  The last years of our marriage I begged D to talk to me.  He wouldn’t.  Or maybe he couldn’t.  I guess I’ll never know which but the one thing I do know clearly and without doubt–we weren’t talking.  And I know what I think–he had already removed himself from our marriage.  His mind, along with his conversation, was elsewhere.  Once communication has broken down, the door is wide open for miscommunication to occur.  One partner will take a word, a phrase, or even a small sentence and isolate it and obsess over it and make it into something much worse than it was ever intended to be.  It’s so sad when that happens because it’s proof that real interactive dialogue is gone and the relationship is taking a nose dive.

I remember one time when I knew we weren’t connecting with each other verbally, and  I decided I should write him a letter.  (Back in the early days of our courtship D would write me long, sweet letters.  I still have them.)  So I wrote him a letter explaining my feelings about something; I don’t remember what, but probably our inability to communicate.  I closed by saying that either he didn’t get it or he didn’t care.  I also told him I preferred to think it was the former.  After a slow and difficult separation and divorce, I finally had to acknowledge it was the latter.  He got it.

An aside:  If my sweet brother Jack were alive, he would be 71 today.  He hated sharing his birthday with Ronald Reagan.  🙂    I still miss him. 😦