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  • robertfarago1

Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (Boone, North Carolina)

By the time you read this, Fritz and I will have left Boone, North Carolina. We'll be sashaying down The Blue Ridge Parkway. Our happy place! Heading to my brother’s house in Asheville. My not-so-happy place? We shall see, but the odds are good. Bad? Something.

But nothing new. My alienation from my middle brother has been a fact of life since he left home for college some 51 years ago.

I'm not sure exactly when I stopped trying to make some sort of connection with my sibling. Or how long after that I stopped caring. Assuming I did. Assuming I have.

Our lack of adult connection has its roots in our chidhood. Obviously. Warning! As Warren Zevon said, it ain't that pretty at all...


Growing up, my brother used to tease me mercilessly. Effectively.

Not only did he know what buttons to push and how to push them, not only did he install new buttons, he could lay trouble traps that would blow-up when he wasn't there. He was my bête-noire.

Mild teasing amongst siblings is normal and healthy. Child psychologists say it strengthens sibling bonds, teaches conflict resolution, helps develop a sense of humor and builds emotional intelligence.

When it's extra-strength, relentless and one-sided, teasing is torture. It lowers self-esteem, triggers trust and body issues and causes social withdrawal. Amongst other things.

I can tick all those boxes, but I don't lay all that at the feet of my brother. As Claude AI reminds us, "parents should guide their children to maintain respectful and supportive relationships with their siblings."

That didn't happen.

In fact, my brother was only following my mother's lead, minus actual physical contact.

My father was non-interventionist – a strange failure given that he was the third of three boys with an emotionally distant relationship with his brothers. Or maybe not so strange.

The Reason for Teasin'?

As my brother entered his teenage years, his cruelty gradually turned into disinterest. Until poof! He was gone, joining our eldest brother at Yale.

Which suited me fine. I could finally get out from under the shadow of two high-performing Faragos.

And so I did, making my mark as a teenage broadcaster on a local FM radio station. Playing soccer at Varsity level. Almost getting laid.

As I entered adulthood, a part of me still wanted to know why my brother felt free, indeed reveled in adding to my misery, rather than providing the love and support I so desperately needed. Was it me? Was he just an evil fuck?

One summer's day, many years later, I found myself following my brother and his wife driving to our parents' summer house.

I waited until the appropriate stretch of road, put the hammer down and passed him – in the good old boy playful spirit of sibling rivalry.

My brother went nuts. He flashed his lights and gestured out the window for me to pull over. He stormed up to my window. He was livid. Yelling at the top of his lungs. Swearing. Eyes ablaze.

I don't remember what he said, but it wasn't about road safety. It was about me daring to challenge his authority. His dominance. Which made perfect sense.

Like all the Farago boys, my brother was driven by the desire to earn our Holocaust-survivor father's respect. That pressure cooker made my brother hugely competitive. It made him view the world as a constant fight for status.

During our childhood, my brother raised his status, his self-esteem by lowering mine. That now-understandable aggression was the foundation of our relationship, such as it was. Such as it isn't, today.

Fraternal Fault Lines

As a former hypnotist cum novelist cum Wandering Jew, I've come to believe that we are the stories we tell ourself. Stories that give meaning to otherwise meaningless and/or inexplicable events.

The trick: to understand that we are the authors of these stories. We are free to edit them. To reinvent ourselves in the past, present and future.

I choose to believe I'm heading towards some sort of fraternal reapprochment. Some new chapter in my relationship with my brother based on mutual respect.

Probably not. As the old saying goes, if someone treats you like they don't care, believe them. To which I'll add: just don't believe it's your fault.

Click here to buy Robert Farago's novel Reservation Point

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Chrisopher Bove
Chrisopher Bove

Ah, sibling rivalry. The bonds that hold us. Being the youngest and, by far, the smallest, I was tortured by my older brother, the second youngest. He was a beast of a child. Stood taller than his teachers since second grade, phenomenal at all sports, had a politician's ability to charm a room, had every girl in highschool vying for his attention. Me, smaller, angrier, still good at sports but lacking the intimidating physical presence.

He caused a lot of that anger. While able to charm every person in the room, he chose to torture me in the same room without looking like the ass he was. And, he would have his minions do the same. This taught me several…


Sequoia Sempervirens
Sequoia Sempervirens

Hey Robert, my younger brother was a total asshole, was always acting like a dick towards me. So I just stopped talking to the guy, and he died alone in a one bedroom apartment in Oakland with no kids or wife because they all hated him. In fact, his kids hated him so much. They didn’t even have a funeral. My older brother was a different story. Even though he resented having a younger brother, he let me hang out with him and his buddies. This was very cool because his friends had a swimming pool, and a pool table, and a huge collection of Playboy magazines. of course my brother preferred not having his kid brother hang out wit…


Take the win. But it’s a shame nonetheless.


Dave Holzman
Dave Holzman

Sheesh! What you went through! You're brother's nutty reaction to your passing him! But at least you've gotten a great story out of him. And maybe many more that I haven't seen.

I have a nearly three years older brother, and I remember very little, if any competition. (I also have a 9 and a half years younger sister. I taught her stuff, including to drive, and to have confidence in herself.)

I hope you have a good reunion.

And I hope you enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway. I've driven it only in Virginia, and it is a great pleasure.


Kristin Thompson
Kristin Thompson

So glad you found Boone! Enjoy your ride on the BRP. I really enjoyed this piece. Having three sons, I know the challenges my youngest has with two highly achieving older brothers. I try to encourage them to have a positive relationship and to pursue their interests. It is great that you are going to see your brother. Hoping that some healing occurs.

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