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…