The recent election created some small ripples in my ordinarily placid family dealings. I targeted certain family members, like my mom, and I tried to sway their votes. This caused one of my brothers to threaten to “unfriendly” me (although he never did) and my retired uncle to begin actually using Facebook . My branch of the family tree isn’t much on confrontation (or communication), though we’re pretty good at freezing out.
I have no intention of freezing out any of my family members, even the ones who’ve subjected me to their own cold shoulders over the years, even the ones who never visit (that would be all of them), even the ones who talk shit behind my back, the ones capable of turning on me for little or no reason. Won’t do it. They’re mine. I see little sparks of me in every single one of them.
Perhaps that’s why I spent an hour today trying to decide what to wear to lunch with my brother. I tried on two dresses, two pairs of leggings, three jackets, and four hats.
My brother drives a large white pickup truck with a pair of yellow testicles hanging from the trailer hitch and an airbrushed picture of Mt. Rushmore—behind a Thomas Jefferson quote and the Tea Party’s URL—on the tailgate. He likes to wear extra large cotton shirts because they’re roomy. He embroiders custom slogans on the pockets of tees with an industrial-sized embroidering machine that he gave to his wife as a “gift.” He’s inspired by Fox News.
I will never get into his truck. I question his fashion sense. I listen to NPR, and sometimes I pity my brother’s wife for the weird “gifts” that she’s received from him over the years, like the aforementioned embroidering machine, or the sports car that doesn’t run.
My brother can also build or fix anything. He can build a new computer if he doesn’t like the way his functions. He can drag a dead jalopy out of a junkyard and not only make it run again, but make it run better (which, incidentally, makes me wonder why his wife’s sports car is still in the garage). He can construct his own energy-efficient heating system in his house or fix a jet engine.
I can do none of these things.
I imagine my brother and I appear opposites to anyone who doesn’t know us. My mother thinks we’re too much alike. My emotions concerning him have vacillated from anger to envy to disgust to admiration to a staunch conviction that I will never, ever be like him. I’ve accused him of being smart, stupid, wise, deluded, selfish, selfless, even mildly autistic. Sometimes, when he talks, I feel an overwhelming urge to leave the room.
In true my-brother form, he casually mentioned he’d be in my metro area for a week. It came out when I asked him why he wanted to know about certain bars around there. My brother lives at least nine hours away. He visited me once, for my wedding, in the sixteen years I’ve lived here. We made plans to do a late lunch.
And so I spent an hour today trying to decide what to wear to lunch with my brother who would undoubtedly show up in a baseball cap and an extra-large Carhartt. I tried on two dresses, two pairs of leggings, three jackets, and four hats. I worried about where to take him, what to show him besides my urban fashion sense. I might detest him sometimes, I might love him sometimes, but I can’t say he doesn’t matter.