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Cottontail

Oh, brothers.

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I have two awesome parents. I've looked up to both of them my whole life.

So how do I tell my dad he's being a jerk about something that doesn't directly affect me?

Backstory: My dad is in his mid 70's. He has three brothers, one of whom is his twin. My dad and his twin brother could not be more different. This brother flunked out of school, went into the Army, and was sent to Vietnam. He saw a lot of horrible stuff there, and has major PTSD -- listens to CDs of artillery sounds to calm himself! He subsequently went through a terrible divorce that left him in financial ruin. As if that wasn't enough, when my grandpa was diagnosed with terminal cancer and took his own life, it was my dad's twin brother who found the body. He's had various ups and downs since, and recently suffered a stroke.

And I really like him. In fact, he's one of my favorite uncles -- a really raw guy with a crude sense of humor, but always kind to me and generous with what he has.

On the other hand: My dad was a consummate academic, held a well-paying research job with the government, and later became a university professor. He recently retired, and although not "rich" by any definition of the word, has no real financial worries. He's in good health, as is my mom.

Every year in November, I fly out to visit my dad's brothers and go deer hunting with them. Over the last few years, for reasons I'll admit to not fully understanding, the relationship between my dad and his twin has grown strained. My dad will say that he cares about his brother, but then he'll make remarks that just drive me nuts. For instance, the other day, a photo arrives by email showing his brother with a number of extended family members and a new granddaughter. My dad meets me for lunch today and says, "Wow, (brother's name) has really put on a lot of weight. I'll have to talk with him about that when we're out visiting."

I didn't say anything, but my first thought was: Why, oh why?! What could my dad possibly accomplish except to further alienate a brother who, let's be honest, is in generally bad shape and might not be around all that much longer? If there was a chance his intervention might actually help his brother, that would be one thing, but his brother lives with other family. He's around people. He's surely heard it, and he surely doesn't need to hear it again. Driving family away is bad enough when you're young and have time to patch things up. Doing it when you're older just seems so dumb.

Ugh! Dad, you're being a jerk! (That's what I want to say.)
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Comments

  1. ClandestineWing's Avatar
    You can put it to him the same way you put it here: He surely already knows and has already heard it from the other part of the family, so hearing it again won't accomplish anything other than just making a rude comment for the sake of making a rude comment.
  2. Cottontail's Avatar


    Quote Originally Posted by ClandestineWing
    You can put it to him the same way you put it here: He surely already knows and has already heard it from the other part of the family, so hearing it again won't accomplish anything other than just making a rude comment for the sake of making a rude comment.
    Yeah. I wish I'd pounced when he said it, as now I'd have to revive the whole conversation before I could add my opinion. It's not just about the "weight" comment, though; he's said other things in the last couple of years that reek of insensitivity to his brother's situation. Part of me just wants to come right out with: Treat him like you'd treat him if it was your last visit, because with the way things are going for him, it just might be. That seems so obvious, though.
  3. Marka's Avatar
    Perhaps this is more of a poorly expressed concern or anxiety, that your father has for the health of his brother...
    -Marka
  4. Cottontail's Avatar


    Quote Originally Posted by Marka
    Perhaps this is more of a poorly expressed concern or anxiety, that your father has for the health of his brother...
    I'm sure there is some anxiety, and probably a bit of (needless) guilt about the fact that he, alone among all the brothers, moved away to another state while the others remained in close proximity to each other. But that only underscores the pointlessness and the risks of trying to exert any influence.

    I'll try to devise some indirect way of bringing this back up, and then I'll ease in on my own feelings. I've got a week until we leave on our trip, and I really don't want this stuff hanging over me while I'm there.
  5. Maxx's Avatar
    Its also possible that your dad is a little jealous of his brother's ability to break out of the conventional box he is in.
  6. Cottontail's Avatar


    Quote Originally Posted by Maxx
    Its also possible that your dad is a little jealous of his brother's ability to break out of the conventional box he is in.
    There might have been some brotherly one-upmanship back a few decades, but this seems like a recent change of attitude, and I'll be honest: There's not much to envy about his twin brother's current situation. If anything, it's the kind of thing that should make him glad to have what he has.

    Separately, my wife's mom and her mom's sisters have lately been doing the "I'm not talking to you now because of (trivial issue)" thing to each other, which is also ridiculous. At this point in their lives, I'd expect siblings to mostly be resigned to dealing with any character issues and whatnot, 'cause change ain't likely! I guess I'm hoplessely naive and/or optimistic about such things, but I'm comforted by the fact that my wife doesn't get it either.
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