There is nothing like a will to bring out the true side of people. My brother was left out of our Dad’s will because he tried to kill Dad when he was 17. They never reconciled. There was nothing but mistrust and animosity after that.
It wasn’t great before that. They’d never had a good relationship. Ian blamed Dad for the fact that he didn’t have money to go to college. Dad’s story was that Ian begged him for the money so he could buy a car. Because of Ian’s lifelong habit of lying to benefit himself, I believe Dad’s side of the story.
Ian felt slighted most of his life. He probably feels this way now, but I no longer talk to him. He felt that everything bad happened to him, that everyone, (especially me) conspired against him. He felt that I was the wanted child and he was the accident. He didn’t realize that we both had a pretty unhealthy childhood, so neither one of us got the silver spoon. We both got the shaft instead.
He blamed me for his fourth wife leaving him. He blamed me for him getting a quarter of a million dollars in debt. He was always a victim, a bystander, a passive observer. Perhaps that is the reason for all of his failures – he never took the blame for anything.
We were still talking when our parents died. He’d been very abusive to me during that time, but I still wanted to have some sort of relationship with him. I suspect a lot of it has to do with Christian guilt, saying that I was supposed to love my brother. I didn’t understand yet that there has to be a measure of reciprocity. Love has to go both ways. It can’t all be take-take-take.
During that time he managed to guilt-trip me out of a Rembrandt etching we had of “The Prodigal Son” saying that it symbolized the relationship that he and Dad had. The irony did not escape me. They didn’t have a relationship.
Our grandmother had given the etching to the family. It sat over the mantle. The story was that Rembrandt created the etching, printed a limited number of prints, and then destroyed the plate with acid. So it was worth a lot of money. It wasn’t listed in the will, specifically, so I could do with it whatever I wanted. I was the executrix of the estate because I was the only person named in the will who was still alive. I was 25, handling a will on my own, getting pressured by my brother. He wanted me to sell the house (my home at that point) and give him half the money. He wanted me to give him half the insurance money too. He’d done nothing to earn it. He hadn’t visited and he hadn’t helped Mom and I while we were struggling with bills when she was sick. He hadn’t done anything at all except harass me to tell me that I wasn’t doing enough. Meanwhile he was doing nothing. So how did he think he was entitled to any of the estate, especially an etching of “The Prodigal Son”?
I gave the etching to him anyway, out of spite. I figured that eventually he’d wake up to the fact that the son has to return for the story to work, and he never returned. It was easier to give him that picture once I realized that. If I’d kept it I would be constantly reminded of him. If he had it, he would be constantly reminded of himself. That specific etching just bolsters his lies. It is right up there with the certificates he has framed of the classes he took when he was in the Air Force. He was only in for one year, then he got kicked out. But he still proudly displays those certificates. There is something deeply wrong going on with him, where his reality doesn’t mesh up with actual reality.
I wanted my brother to become a real human being. I still want him to. I finally realized that I couldn’t be part of that process though. It was like he wanted me to be an accessory to his insanity. I couldn’t participate in it. Talking to him was making me crazy because he was crazy. Getting into conversations with him was like getting in the car with a drunk behind the wheel. Everywhere we went in our conversations was wrong. I knew I had to get out for my own safety.
There aren’t any easy instructions on how to deal with an abusive family. All the Hallmark movies make us think that families are loving and brothers look out for their little sisters. All the mythology of family in American society tells us that everything is wonderful and everybody is happy. This is great when it is true, and it is harmful when it isn’t. All too often our reality doesn’t mesh up with what we are told we should be experiencing, and we feel pain. We feel like we are wrong, and not that the prepackaged image of “happy family” is wrong.