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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What did I know and when did I know it?

photo(9)We had gone to Pennsylvania to a family wedding.  My husband was absent, remote, not present.  He was physically there, of course, but not emotionally.  This was years before he announced that he wanted a divorce.

We were strolling along the streets of the small town we were visiting.  I can’t remember exactly what had passed between us in the previous short span of time.  What I can remember is a brief dialogue we had as we walked.  Apparently I had not received the reply I expected to some comment or question.  I stopped, looked him in the eyes, with puzzlement in mine, and told him, “You act like someone who’s having an affair.”  In hindsight, I realize the look on his face said it all.  I continued with my accusation, “You are, aren’t you?”

At this point D did what he has always done best.  He put on his poor-pitiful-me look, donned his best salesman cloak and presented a spiel like I had never heard before, and hope I never hear again.  “No,” he insisted, “I’m not having an affair.”  I don’t remember the rest of what he said to convince me of his innocence, but I do remember my queen of denial kicking in to the extent that I felt the need to apologize to him for thinking and saying such vile things. And I did.  My jaw is gaping as I write and I have an enormous urge to kick my own ass.  What was I thinking?!

Here’s the thing, I had never accused him of infidelity.  I know I didn’t just blurt it out without some considerable forethought.  Why didn’t I trust my gut?  Why did I second guess my instincts?  Today, the answer is obvious: I didn’t want to know.  It didn’t seem so simple at the time, though.  Matters of the heart are complicated.

This story gets even better.  After we had established that D was not guilty, we shopped and window shopped at our leisure for quite some time.  I saw and admired a rather expensive watch.  He insisted on buying it for me.  I still wear it today.  A logical, thinking person would have recognized he was paying me for buying what he was selling that day–that he was a really good husband and he had done nothing wrong.  In retrospect, I think I did recognize his so-called generosity for what it was.

Today I’m neither sad nor happy.  I’m not angry.  I’m idling here in neutral, just remembering.

Here’s a delightful, laid-back Christmas song for you, if you’re so inclined.  I heard it at my granddaughter’s recital this afternoon.  Jingle Bell Jamboree by Keb’ Mo’.

“In My Dreams”

I’m cold.  So cold I’m shivering and shaking.  I hear something running.  A furnace?  A faucet?  A waterfall?  Slowly consciousness starts to make an appearance.  I realize it’s raining — hard.  And I really am cold.  Of course I have to go pee after listening to all that water.

So I got up.  Went to the bathroom.  Looked at the clock.  5:00 a.m.  Too early to stay up.  I put on a long-sleeved shirt and curled up again in my too-big king-sized bed and let the sound of the rain lull me back to dreamland.

I’m at my former in-laws’ home.  It isn’t a place I’ve seen before.  It’s a different house.  My father-in-law is there.  He sits back and observes more than he participates, his crooked little smile on his face.  My mother-in-law plays the part of the queen bee, as always.  She’s an attentive hostess as she sees to her guests and keeps the party flowing.  She’s always done that so very well.  They seem happy, my in-laws, and contented.  Mother-in-Law brings out some photos she’s found while cleaning.  She wants to share them with me because my children are in them.  We enjoy sharing times past.  Happy times.

I stirred.  Then sat up.  I looked at the clock.  It was almost 8:00.  Late.  My first instinct, first thought, was to call my ex.  No, I realized, that wouldn’t do.  Maybe an e-mail.  No, maybe not.

I wanted to let him know that his dad is okay.  You see, his dad died not long after we separated.  I wanted so much to comfort him back then, but was not allowed to do so.  He wouldn’t allow it.  I’m still not allowed.

Isn’t it interesting/strange how our dreams try to help us finish what our real lives can’t accommodate?  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it serves only to recall and exacerbate the pain.

“In My Dreams” by Emmylou Harris.

Remembering…

I woke up this morning with a vivid image of my ex in my head — the image of D the first time I saw him.  I don’t know where it came from or why I saw him so clearly in that form.  Did I dream of him?  I don’t recall a dream.

The Charlotte Airport.  August 13, 1972.  Eastern Airlines had hired both of us and we were heading to Miami for three weeks of training along with several other new employees from the area.  At the time, one of Eastern’s largest reservations facilities was located in Charlotte.

D caught my attention that day because he talked a lot — and he had a rather loud voice.  He provided a distraction as I tried not to worry about spending the next three weeks away from my three little daughters.  He kept trying to make jokes about Eddie Rickenbacker.  I had read Eddie’s memoir.  I didn’t think the “jokes” were funny.

D was more than six feet tall.  He was very, very skinny.  His blond-streaked hair was curly and cropped just short enough to gain him employment with the conservative corporate giant.  (I learned later that he had to get a haircut in order to be hired.)  I didn’t notice his beautiful blue eyes at the time, but I couldn’t miss his Yosemite Sam moustache.

My first impression?  Forgettable — a young college kid who talked too much because he was nervous about his new job.

The end…or maybe not.Photos from Wikipedia