Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Forgetting Is Not Nearly As Important As The Forgiving

Another new school. It was getting a little tiring having to start over all the time. Especially being as shy as she was. And it seemed like the older she got, the harsher the kids were. She didn't really think there was all that much wrong with her, but according to the feedback she got fairly regularly, her "awkward stage" was lasting a little longer than everyone else's. Oh well… her teacher seemed okay. School itself was never really the problem. In fact, the actual schoolwork was the best part of her day. That was something she connected with. Getting good grades was a goal she could get behind so throughout each lesson, she was completely engaged, taking good notes and always making sure her homework was completed. She would do her best not to watch the clock as those two times of day began to loom over her. Recess. 

The first recess was terrifying. It was an entire 30 minutes of trying to be invisible. Sure, she wanted to play four square or tetherball, but she didn't know anyone and wasn't very good at either one. Her lack of confidence and athleticism continued to prevent her from getting involved in any sort of reindeer games that were going on. At the last school she was at, she joined the school choir, which practiced during recess. She couldn't sing very well but at least she always had a place to go. However, there was no choir to escape to now. 

The second recess of the day was only 15 minutes long. It was a lot easier to hide for that 15 minutes. Plus, once it was over, she knew she was safe until the next day. Please, she asked, let this be the last school for a while. It just keeps getting worse. 

To her pleasure, however, something was different this time around. This time, her big brother, also new to the school of course, took her under his wing. Being a very good athlete and taller than most, he had no trouble at all securing a ball for them so that they could spend half an hour playing wall ball together. She was so relieved! Being invisible was SO much more difficult than actually enjoying herself. In fact, now it seemed recess wasn't long enough! The first week of school was shaping up to look pretty good after all. 

One day, after an exhausting wall ball competition where she, yet again, got "schooled", the bell called out it's shrill cry that it was time for everyone to get back to class. Unlike the beginning of recess, all of the children in the schoolyard took their time putting away their equipment, dragging their feet as they slowly plodded along back towards the main building and the outer portable classrooms. She walked with her head up, next to her big brother, thinking that next time they played, she might actually be able to get a few points up on him. 

With just 20 more feet to go to get back to the classrooms, a few boys behind them began laughing. One shouted out loudly, for all those around to hear, "Oh look! There goes Jonny Verde, playing with his little sister!! How cute!!". She thought it was a stupid comment to make. Who cares? They were new and didn't have any friends yet. It's not like anyone had asked them to play with their group of friends - or asked to join in the wall ball game. She couldn't figure out how such a ridiculous comment could even be considered an insult. She looked over at her brother to see his reaction. He didn't look back at her. He didn't say a word. He just kept walking forward, going into his classroom while she went the few extra feet and went into hers. She knew something wasn't right. 

After that day, they never shared time on a playground ever again. 

When it's necessary for me to get on my soap box and talk about differences in people and why it's so important to connect based on life experiences and not superficial reasons, I often talk about the realization that there are no two people who believe the same exact thing. I always use my brother and I as an example. We were raised in the same house by the same two parents with, essentially, the same rules. However, for those who know us, it is easy to see that we are both completely different people. We have different beliefs, different perspectives and entirely different opinions on a vast majority of subjects. We are proof that while parents most definitely make huge impacts on our belief systems as we grow up, everything we come into contact with as toddlers all the way up to teenagers plays a very important role in shaping who we are. All it takes is a brief moment for something to happen and the younger we are, the more likely we are to know this as our truth. 

For example, my heart broke one day in the grocery store when a little boy was singing loudly next to his mom's shopping cart while waiting in line to be checked out. He was dancing and singing, being that silly four year old that I think we all wish we could be sometimes. I found it adorable. As he busted into his next chorus, his mom - clearly having a rough day - snapped violently at him "Will you shut up! No one wants to listen to you!" I thought I was going to cry right there. Not only because of how bad I felt for the little boy who was enjoying expressing himself, but because he would most likely have a belief now that no one wanted to listen to him. It could take years and years of someone's love and support before he ever thought about getting up in front of a group of people to give a speech or try out as a solo for his church choir. It could prevent him from having open communication with a lover or sticking up for someone getting bullied on the school playground. The problem with words is that even though you can apologize for them, once they leave your mouth, the damage has been done.


My brother and I have had our fair share of fights over the years, like I imagine many sets of siblings have. I remember physical fights and getting hurt and hurting him back. But bruises healed and scratches scabbed over. It was the painful words we spit at each other that have driven a wedge between us. At least, for me, that's what it has been. I have always been angry at my brother for saying words to me that cut like an infomercial steak knife, but angrier for those times he chose not to say anything. Like when I was getting teased or when I moved away. I was always so frustrated that he chose those times to keep his mouth shut. 

I'm no saint, either. I always thought that a big brother was supposed to be exactly that - big. And therefore, someone I could look up to for advice or help; someone that I could go to if I needed something; someone that wouldn't tolerate if I was getting teased or attacked. However, that day on the playground, a very clear belief was instilled into my head "My brother doesn't want anything to do with me." Because I believed this so strongly, I began to manifest it in our relationship. I would do everything I could to make him look like the bad kid in my parents' eyes. I would engage in gossip at school that was about him because of my resentment towards him. I started to dislike everything he liked just so we could argue about it. No matter what I was doing, I was trying to prove to myself time and time again that my belief was accurate. 

What a sad relationship to have with your only sibling.

As an adult, I've gotten angry with my parents for allowing this behavior to go on between us. But, then I remember that my dad was the oldest of eleven and acted as more of a father figure to his siblings until he moved away and my mom's family completely abandoned her at a young age. So, my guess is that they weren't really sure what to do with the two of us. I think because my brother and I were so close when we were young, there was faith that we would eventually grow close again. However, with the exception of that brief time after we both took that leadership training course, he and I have never been the kind of close that I see so many other brothers and sisters being. 

Something I have come to realize, though, is that our relationship is the way it is because I allowed it to be that way. Once again, I was always trying to prove myself right about him not wanting anything to do with me. I think if I could have forgiven him years and years ago for his behavior on the playground that day, we could've enjoyed each other like we did when we were kids. I mean, what did I expect him to do? Turn around and beat those boys up? As usual, my expectations of how I think other people should react to certain situations has gotten the best of me. We were in 5th and 6th grade. As my hairdresser pointed out recently, we didn't know what to do at that age. And when all you are trying to do is fit in at a new school, the way he acted really wasn't that terrible. What were we supposed to do - go out for hot chocolate after class and talk about our feelings surrounding the situation? 

I have put a lot of pressure on my brother to be my protector because I think that's what older siblings should be. However, I have spent my entire life pushing him away and making a conscious effort to "not need him". As the Universe would have it, he responded accordingly. 

When my mom gave me that book recently "How Can I Forgive You", I immediately took offense to being called a narcissist and conveniently left the book at a bar I was at with some friends. I really didn't have any intention on reading the book, however the message on the cover started to sink in more and more as I thought about my brother. I'm not exactly sure what my mom's personal intentions were when she gave me the book (like, was she forgiving me? Was I supposed to be forgiving her?) but then, as I always say, everything happens for a reason. In the end, it wasn't about my relationship with my mom at all. 

A couple weeks ago, still on my sports movie kick, I put in Gridiron Gang (can't get enough of The Rock and Xhibit trying to be good examples for inner city youth). There is a scene towards the end where The Rock is telling one of the kids that he needs to learn how to forgive those in his life that have hurt him and made him feel worthless. He goes on to say that his father had always made him feel like he was good for nothing and wouldn't amount to anything. The boy looked up at The Rock and asked him how long it took him to finally forgive his father. There is a dramatic pause, tears begin to well up in The Rock's eyes and he says, shaking his head "Til Just Now." 

Like everything else in life, forgiveness is a choice. I don't need reasons to forgive or someone else's opinion on how to do it or tell me why it's the right thing to do. In my brother's case, I forgive simply because… I love him. 

And I am sorry. I choose to handle things differently than the rest of my family - and most of my friends for that matter - and my path of righteousness kept me from really having the kind of relationship I wanted with my brother. I can't say whether or not we will ever have the kind of friendship that I see other siblings have, but I know that when I think of my brother now, it is only with love and compassion. I think of him as a father and a husband. I think of him as a son who came back from the dead and chose a different life for himself. I see him as a brother who tried, but never knew where to go with me. Most importantly though, I see him as a human being. 

I know now that he is a protector and that his son will be beautiful and perfect because of who he has chosen to be.

This time, he definitely hit it out of the park. 


  1. yep, definitely crying. "In my brother's case, I forgive simply because… I love him." <3 and that's the way it should be.
    Thank you for this post Tina.

  2. Tina, I liked your writing in here, about sibling relationship. But you do have one thing wrong and that is you wrote that we looked at your Dad as a father figure. NONE of us kids looked at him as a father figure, but as our Oldest and Big Brother. Big difference. First off, no-one could ever step into our Dad's shoes, and secondly, we did look up to Jon for being the oldest, but what was sad with that he left the house 1st, after graduation, as is usually the situation in most families. So there was a bit of separate bond left behind. But as brothers and sisters go, we all usually played well together, fought hard together, and prayed together. And then life happens, we all grow up, move out, move on, and still to this day, I admire my big brother so much for who he is as a person, most especially, as a brother, who in adulthood, became the wise, fun loving brother that we all love dearly. What I most admire about my brother Jon, is his zest for life. His nature of being calm and neutral. His love for his wife and kids. I hope he too remembers the good memories of childhood with his siblings, as I do. That's what I cherish the most. Also Tina, in closing, forgiveness does happen, on both parts. Just let it, and don't be afraid to say and mean " I love you" to your brother. Hugs Niece!

  3. This is such an inspiring post, Tina. Maryann is spot on. You've got me thinking about my dad now. I need to go down the same path with him that you are going down with your brother. Thank you for continually coming from a place of vulnerability, not only in your blogs but in life. Your words will change the world. They already are...


  4. Aunt Lori,

    Thank you so much for your comment. I admit, sometimes I base my writing off of assumptions and my experience of the situation. What I love so much about writing openly is that I get to learn more and more about my friends and family. Like when Uncle Joe told me the real reason behind his suicide attempt and you tell me what your experience of my dad was growing up. This is the connection that I am looking for and thank you for being a part of it.

    I love you!! And yes, Dad's calm, neutral and accepting personality is exactly why the world loves him back. :)