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  • Robert Farago

He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother

Wherein the author learns the better part of valor

Yesterday, members of my family gathered on my nephew’s patio, high in the Hollywood Hills. An elderly gentleman I’d never met sat at the head of the table, a dead wringer for Dos Equis’ “the world’s most interesting man.”

Carlos Not His Real Name spoke with a Spanish accent thick enough to use as a doorstop. I’m not sure if one of his ancestors worked for the Church in the 1600’s. If so, I suspect the Spanish Inquisition kept him fully occupied.

Credit where credit’s due: Carlos would’ve made a terrific investigative journalist. Or an ace proctologist.

He began by asking my brothers what it was like to work for my father. “I have a friend who’s thinking about bringing his sons into his business,” he explained. Sure you do.

After quickly absorbing the facts of the matter – what each brother did, why they joined the company – Carlos proceeded to prod their pain points with surgical skill. Did you enjoy working for your father? What did you do for him? Why did you leave?

What fascinated me: what wasn’t said.

No mention was made of the cataclysmic fall-out between my brothers that led to the sale of the family firm. A fight for control that permanently fractured a closerthanthis relationship extending back to their earliest childhood.

I wasn’t about to spill the proverbial beans. The fact that I do so here, confident that neither brother will read this post, tells you all you need to know about my brothers’ interest in their youngest sibling.

Anyway, at the risk of mixing metaphors, watching my brothers dance around their trauma unbonding had a circling-the-wagons solidarity vibe that reminded me that I have a family (even though I’m the designated black sheep).

So I did my bit to provide contextual cover, switching focus to the strike at my father’s factory. A betrayal of prideful paternalism that sent him into a terrible depression, made ten times worse by the Arab Oil embargo (convincing him Israel was doomed).

\I didn’t say it last night, but I should have: the birth of his first grandson finally lifted him out of his black hole. The same grandson who was our host for the evening, whose family life and career success would have filled my father’s heart with joy.

The Spanish prosecutor dug deeper and deeper into my parents’ past. I gotta say, I learned a lot. For example…

My mother began her long and winding road to American citizenship by sleeping with her married boss. My father’s once-secret first wife arranged a scholarship for him in Alabama. Dressing runway models in New York City was my father’s first job in The Land of the Free.

The freaky factoids weren’t the most important thing I learned from the Spaniard’s relentless death march through the mists of time. That insight arrived when Carlos asked all three of us first gen Americans to describe each other in two words.

Given the audience and the water under the proverbial bridge, my brothers took the question as an opportunity to say something nice. Rightly so.

I didn’t pay much attention to their answers. And then it was my turn.

I immediately thought of two-word pairs. One complimentary word, one not so much. O.K., not at all.

And I said… nothing. Not “I don’t dare say anything lest I say everything” nothing. A calm, peaceful “no thanks, not playing” nothing.

I discovered that I no longer need my brothers to acknowledge my mistreatment, suffering and abandonment. I don’t need them to know, admit or take responsibility for any of it.

I’m not going to blow smoke up their asses, but I won’t let anger or resentment define our relationship, such as it isn’t. The torch has already been passed to our children. It’s time to let go

As for Carlos, the prying asshole whose crocodile smile masked a relentless attempt to expose my family’s dirty laundry and interpersonal beefs, I’ve got three words: bless your heart. And two more for y’all: happy thanksgiving.

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