Friday, October 26, 2018

A family message: well, it's worth a try

It’s a strange business when a man in his late 50s suddenly divorces his family of birth. Even stranger when his mother, now in her mid-90s, has her birthday unacknowledged – even Christmas gets cancelled. Not even a card. As his brother and my mother’s registered carer, I am not too troubled myself – I have enough to do and think about because I work, too; but our mother is profoundly hurt. What terrible thing did she do to this man who will soon be 58? She just loved him and dealt with him honestly. She’d always want to know how he was, she always asked him questions, especially as he claims to suffer from various life-threatening health complaints, not one confirmed by doctors and countless hospital tests on the NHS. But he didn’t want mere love. He wanted an echo chamber for reasons yet to be understood. 

She and I don’t do echoing.
Echoing is to be found in some relationships. It takes the form of parroting the words and perspective of a partner or loved one. It can be a sign of meekness or extreme compliance, and control-freakery is usually at the heart of it. Or, it can disguise another agenda which reveals itself later. Back in 2016, in a phone conversation about my brother’s health anxieties, my brother’s partner said to me, “I’ve learnt not to confront him. I usually get what I want eventually, but I wait for the right moment to say something.” It’s a useful strategy – echoing. Echoing is a means to an end. Well, it’s one way to get through life, I suppose. Fiddles are meant to be played.

In this same phone conversation, I was told that my brother felt misunderstood by us and needed his own space. The partner had phoned back in response to my mother’s call to her younger son, worried about any developments in his latest health crisis. But he’d refused to come to the phone – he dispatched his parrot to shoo us off. We had failed to be echoes so must be punished. It was explained to me by the parrot that, in addition to our failings, my brother feared news of more “dramas” from the family home – just recently, our mother had fallen down the stairs and sustained minor injuries. The accident could so easily have been fatal. My brother had seemed unconcerned. To him this was just a “drama” in his house of echoes about a woman in her 90s he no longer cared for. A line was crossed in my mind. I was disgusted.
My brother has apparently immersed himself in a ‘spiritual’ discipline which does not require him to honour his mother (at least), not even as a mark of respect for all the love, labour and shared memories over the decades. I hear he uses the Hindu word ‘namaste’ a lot in his Facebook posts which means “I bow to you”, as a courtesy or greeting. Our Italian mother raised us alone, a woman in a foreign country following divorce, having survived Nazi slavery and US bombing during WW2 – she only recently told me about the Nazi thing.

The one word she never hears is “namaste”. That’s for remote strangers never likely to be friends or enemies. Just for the indifferent echoes who mean nothing. I am asking my brother to reach out to our mother. Try to be a little bigger. You don’t have to worry about me – I am the least of your concerns. Honour our mother before it’s too late. 
Or at least live up to one of your spiritual precepts of kindness to others for your own sake.