30 January 2009

The Bond That Never Was (Part One)

As children, Matt and I rarely saw the world in a similar vein.   We shared many things in life, our parents and younger brother, Tim, being primary, of course. We both attended grade school at Holy Trinity and high school at Aquinas.  We hung out with many of the same neighborhood kids, although rarely together.  We would spend hours and hours, creating our Lego masterpieces as well as collecting Match Box cars. As we got older, we developed a renewed interest in music, developing a passion for the post modern sounds of Morrissey and The Smiths, Depeche Mode, and Joy Division.  Our worlds were in so many ways the same.  Yet, fundamentally, our worlds could not have been more different.

I regret that Matt and I really never truly bonded with each other.  As a child, this conclusion was not readily apparent to me.  After all, siblings are presumed to love and adore each other. It is unrealistic to imagine siblings who always appreciate the quirks and idiosyncrasies of one another.  Without question, there are times when brothers and sisters fight, be it over a toy or the TV watching schedule.  And, there are those times of jealousy and resentment over the distribution of parental time and affection.  Despite it all, siblings usually regroup and move on from these childhood transgressions.  The bond between siblings is protective. We forgive and hopefully, forget.  We move on because that is what siblings do.  Or, so I thought.  Or, so I hoped.  Or, so I desperately wanted.

Very honestly, our relationship did not flourish for lack of trying.  I remember lying on the brown carpeting of our dining room floor, my hands propping up my face, a sea of Matchbox cars in front of me.  Matt, would lie in similar position, although I remember that it was very difficult for him to stay in one position for any length of time as he always appeared as if he had "ants in his pants."  We would create an inventory of our respective car stock, sometimes trading a race car for an ambulance.  We would line our cars in our "parking lot," manipulating them in the manner we wanted them displayed.  We would "chase" each others' vehicle though imaginary terrain and unanticipated hazards.  These brief moments of enjoyment were fleeting, as invariably, Matt wanted the cars to smash into one another.  He would fling cars throughout the room.  Wheels would fall off, windows would break, and a few cars invariably, destroyed. Matt reveled in these violent displays of car crashes, especially those in which the car occupants would suffer horrendous fates.  I did not really understand this need for intensity and wanted less violence.  I bristled at the thoughts that cars would smash and explode.  In retrospective, without much surprise, very few of our infrequent play sessions ended well.  The resulting frustration and anger lingered into the next foray until no more attempts were made to play with our cars together.  It became that we no longer played together at all as we so seldom saw eye to eye.

Why were Tim and I able to bond when Matt I couldn't?  I have always felt such an intense connection with Tim, yet only superficiality with Matt.  Why were we unable to develop  a minimal affinity with one another during our early childhood years?  This realization is the mourning of an unfulfilled dream.  Matt is my brother, yet I share no emotional connection with him.  This is not how sibling relationships are *supposed* to be.

Amidst a bond that never solidified is a regret that only deepens.  

05 January 2009

Twenty Years

Twenty years ago, I first wandered the halls of Pioneer Hall.  I had met Nancy, a fellow student and Pioneer Hall resident, in an algebra class, during my first quarter.  She invited me to meet her roommate and House 6 neighbors, as I had moved into the dorm a few weeks into the quarter and had not yet met many people.   Nancy introduced me to Beth, who lived directly across the hall.  Beth was gregarious and friendly, asking me early this initial meeting, "What's wrong with being stranded?"  I was initially confused by this question and curious why someone would ask this.  Shortly thereafter, I was to learn  that "Strand" is Beth's surname.  I was intrigued and amused by Beth's quick wit and razor sharp observations.

Beth and I became friends throughout our Freshman year.  We would chat for hours and hours (and hours) in her dorm room, surrounded by the black and white, post modern posters of New Order, Joy Division, and Depeche Mode.  We often discussed our future academic and career aspirations.  Beth had "officially" declared her major as pre-med while I was "officially" undecided, learning toward a Psychology major, or possibly French, while also considering Political Science.  (What can I say, the world was our oyster and full of endless possibilities!) 

Not particularly surprising, we were irreverent and silly, enjoying the "off the wall." We delighted in Delilah, a creation of a discarded witch pinata head, crumpled up newspaper, and Beth's gold lame pantsuit, a high school 4H entry.  With Delilah in the background, propped up in Beth's desk chair with a Donald Duck pipe in "her" mouth, Beth and I spent hours discussing our new found Pioneer Hall friends, upcoming social gatherings, and occasionally our current course load, among other things (We were in college to learn, after all).  ;)    One bitterly cold winter afternoon, we walked across campus to two drug stores seeking out boxes of the same red hair color (the first drug store had only one box), wondering to each other  if "anyone would notice" our new hair dye experiment. We designated  "Pastel Day" (a day in which we would only wear pastel, as compared to our usual much darker tones...I made it through mid afternoon and then changed clothes.) We laughed when dorm resident, Pietro, would shout across the Pioneer courtyard, "I am not wearing any pants" on a weekly basis.  (We were 18 years old and thus, easily amused, it would seem).

The Pioneer Hall days are long behind us and Beth and I have since settled into our "adult" lives (whatever than means). Hopefully, we have moved beyond matching hair color, pastel attire, and sophomoric comments (admittedly, the last assertion is a stretch but one can always hope). We have forged ahead in our schooling and careers (Beth more so than me at this juncture, it would seem) . We have become Mamas to children whom we love, adore, and hug more than they would like, at times. We have experienced the joyous "peaks" and painful "valleys" of romantic and platonic relationships.  We have held several jobs and lived in different locales.  We have also experienced unimaginable loss in the deaths of our parents and grandparents. Through success and failure, happiness and sorrow, Beth and I have remained friends during these twenty years.  

On Friday evening, I drove to Beth's home while our children were spending some quality time with their dads.  It was a very, very rare circumstance, indeed.  No kids.  No dogs. No work.  No tasks.  Just two old friends hanging out.

We kicked back, checked out the local bar and grill, and toured the town.  We enjoyed Beth's Christmas tree and fireplace while we talked throughout the evening.  We listened to the alternative music channel and chatted about the past, the present, and our futures.  We could let our hair down. No worries.  No pretense.  As Beth suggested, "we can be ourselves with each other and neither one of us judges."  

In this season of resolutions and promises, goals and hopes are often lost in the shuffle as the year progresses.  I have resolved to take more stock in the many blessings that I have in my life. One of these many blessings is my friendship with Beth.  I am grateful for all that she does and most importantly, all that she is.