Monday, January 08, 2007

What About Bob? Part 1

Finally, my first post of 2007. As some of you may have read in one of my remarks in one of the comment threads, my mom was admitted to the hospital a week and a half ago for pneumonia and injuries sustained from a fall in her apartment. Naturally, this has made it difficult to find time to prepare the next installment of my “Chosen People of the Supreme Being Test” series. However, I am happy to report that my mom has improved greatly over the last few days and I hope that she will be home soon. Unfortunately, as if the stress brought on my dealing with my mom’s medical problems during the New Year’s weekend was not enough, the situation was exacerbated by the actions of my eldest brother Bobby, to whom I dedicate this multi-part post. It goes without saying that this is a very deeply personal post, but by the time you reach its conclusion, you will see how my story about Bobby and the title of the post fits into a larger social context.

Everyone likely knows or is even related to someone like my brother Bobby. Standing at 6’ 5”, my brother, who is six years older than me, has been an imposing and volatile personality since as long as I can remember. It seems like he was always getting into trouble and at an early age it was burned into my psyche not to grow up to be like him. One of my earliest memories of Bobby was from around the time I was 4 or 5 years old. I was standing outside the door of his bedroom and he must have done something really bad, because my father was on top of him yelling at him and wailing on him. Since I figured Bobby had done something to deserve having my dad on top of him like an angry gorilla, I reached into the hallway closet and tried to hand my dad a belt so that he could whip Bobby with it. “Tommy, what are you doing?” Bobby cried when he saw me in the doorway holding the belt in my outstretched hand and calling to dad to take it. Bobby, along with middle brother John, was more often than not a frightening and intimidating presence in my life. I was often tormented by both of them when mom and dad were not around, and so I would resort to tattling on them when they did things behind mom and dad’s back because it was the only way I could get back at them.

Coming into his teens during the mid to late 1970’s, Bobby got caught up in the rock n’ roll scene of the era, with bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Van Halen. Bobby strutted around town with his shoulder length hair, denim jacket and denim jeans. His teen years were filled with booze, drugs, fistfights and run-ins with the law. With his good looks, blue eyes and charming personality, he was always a hit with the girls. His charms even worked their magic on my mom, who often pleaded on his behalf to my stern New York City police officer father. This quite frequently led to fights between my parents. Eventually, Bobby was sent upstate to a juvenile home for troublesome boys called Lincoln Hall and for a year or two I only saw him when we drove upstate to visit him.

The next big change in Bobby’s life was when he decided to join the Marines when he was 19. But even the night before he was to ship off for boot camp at Paris Island was filled with tumult as my dad called the police when Bobby insisted on spending the night partying and getting drunk instead of staying home and being prepared to wake up early the next day. As with his stay at Lincoln Hall, I saw little of Bobby during his time in the Marines, except for once or twice a year when he got to come home on leave. In 1984, he was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, when he met and married a young lady named Regina. Bobby brought her with him to visit us that summer. A sweet and petite woman with a Natalie Wood face, I took a liking to Regina and looked forward to having her as a sister-in-law. One morning, the whole family went out to breakfast together at an IHOP. I cannot remember what it was that Regina said or did, but in front of all of us, Bobby angrily snapped at her. Regina managed to retain her composure for a moment, but she could not hold it, and she began to break down into tears. Mom rebuked Bobby and he became all sheepish and apologetic. I guess none of us saw it as a portent at the time, because when their stay with us was over and they returned to California, little did I know that I would never see Regina again.

Within two years, Bobby would be out of the Marines with a General Discharge (which is not as bad as a Dishonorable Discharge, but is still not something you would put on your resume) after repeatedly being AWOL and insubordinate, and his marriage with Regina ended in divorce. Bobby was reduced to living out of his truck and he begged mom and dad to allow him to come back home to New York. My father was vehemently against it, as the $10,000 that he had given to Bobby and Regina for a house was essentially flushed down the toilet. But my mom, who always had a soft spot for Bobby, prevailed, and in the autumn of 1988, Bobby made his way back to New York to try and patch his life back together.

To be continued…

9 comments:

Stardust said...
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Stardust said...

tommy - do you ever regret handing your father the belt? I can understand your feelings of helplessness as a child who is bullied by your older siblings.

I feel sorry that Bobby had all these problems. It's a sad story so far. (Similar to that of my youngest brother.)

I am glad to hear your mother is improving and will be home soon. Caring for aging parents is not easy at times.

Tommy said...

Hi Stardust!

Actually, my dad did not take the belt. I think he was so focused on my brother that he didn't really notice me.

Looking back on it, I think it's funny, not the beating my dad gave Bobby, but the fact that as a little kid I was trying to help my dad punish him.

Stardust said...

Looking back on it, I think it's funny, not the beating my dad gave Bobby, but the fact that as a little kid I was trying to help my dad punish him.

As a defenseless little kid, you just saw your opportunity to get even ;)

I was the oldest so didn't have that problem, but my youngest brother sure did. One time my husband (then my boyfriend) shoved my brother head-first into a garbage can because he wouldn't go away and leave us alone. He's a lot younger than me and my other two siblings so got picked on and pushed around a lot (and hit by my other brother who is the second oldest). No wonder he snitched on us and exaggerated everything we ever did to him! It was his way of getting back at us because he was too little to do it himself.

(Your side bar isn't showing up. That happens to me sometimes and I have to republish the blog to get it back....you might know that already and if so...please disregard)

Sable Chicken said...

Tommy,
Interesting story so far. I am the oldest kid in my family, but I can't relate to being mean like that to my younger brother or sister. We were always taught to get along with each other. Not that there wasn't disagreements once in a while. No one was so bad to someone else that they wanted to see them get the belt.

I can relate to your story though. When I was ten I was over at a neighbor kids house with about 3 other kids, because it was his birthday. All of a sudden the birthday boy's much older brother shows up and starts bulling the birthday boy. And than shoves him into a cabnet and traps him there. He took all the fun out of the party. We felt helpless to do anything to help our friend, but console him after his tormentor left the room. It's still hard for me to understand why siblings would treat each other so cruelly.

I can relate to being spanked with a belt, but for very different reasons.
I was really young and I liked to gather "pretty" rocks near a busy road. I didn't think that I was so close to traffic, the next thing I remember, I was being swept off my feet and beaten with a belt. Wow, talk about painful. I guess I deserved it.
I have very strong, and mixed feelings about this kind of spanking.
I think correcting a very young kid with a painful spanking can really bring the point home to the kid. But when does a parent stop? I know this is a little off topic, but older kids that are beaten become more and more rebellious and the communication between the parent and kid more and more distant.
It's always something to think about when one becomes a parent oneself.

Tommy said...

As a parent of two little kids, there are plenty of occasions when they get me riled up and I yell at them. Sometimes I ask myself if I went too far or if I could have handled it better than I did. I hate the fact that I turn into an ogre sometimes. It's not easy being a parent, especially when you are alone with them and your spouse is not around to help.

Stardust said...

tommy - we managed to raise three kids to adulthood without hitting them, though at times it took great restraint...LOL! We did the time-out thing when they were little and the extra chore duty when they were older...however, lectures from dad were the worst for them. Usually what really worked the best is asking them why they were behaving in such and such a way and wait for their answer. Hear them out and then talk about it. If they had a complaint about one of their siblings, we heard each side and let them talk...then talked to both...or all three together giving each one opportunity to vent and then compromise and make up. Our kids have always been open to talk to us about anything even through the teenage years. The three of them are in their 20s now and call each other several times a week and are VERY close...like triplets, only they are about a year and a half apart each.

Yelling..well, that is awfully hard not to do at times even between adults. (especially when we ourselves are tired and have things on our minds.)

Stram said...

I hope your Mom is doing better, Tommy. And, I can't wait to read the continuation about Bobby. All of us who have brothers can somewhat relate, but then again, Bobby sounds a little unique. Keep us posted.

Sable Chicken said...

Tommy I'm sure you are doing fine with your kids. It was hard for me also when my husband was gone away at work. He would be gone days or weeks with his job, so when my daughter was really young, I was ready for a break when he got home. It must be harder for you, because you're out numbered with two. I don't know how my parents did it with three, they were out numbered even when they were both home.

Don't get frustrated with them and yell too much, they are always smarter than they let on and most likely can be reasoned with more then one might think.
I love to watch "Nanny 911" with my daughter. She is always shocked at how bad the kids on that show can get...(but it always ends up being the parents fault for their bad behavior in the end) I just wish that it was on TV before 9 pm...all kids should watch it.