Sunday, September 18, 2005

Missing

My brother left a message on the machine today. Apparently my nephew has gone missing in the Persian Gulf. A seaman on an Aegis cruiser, he has been lost for over a week now. At this point, sea searches by the US Navy and the Iranian Navy have turned up nothing. They do not know if he fell overboard, jumped overboard or was forced overboard. No news at all. He is just missing.

This news is shocking enough, but what pounds it home even deeper is this is the first real contact with my immediate family since my oldest brother basically cut me off 10 years ago. Rather than get in their face, I blew the whole family off. I chose to remove myself. I did it conciously. There are a multitude of reasons I could come up with. They all seem so petty and trivial when compared to the family tragedy my oldest brother is dealing with right now.

I am still in shock. A lot of history has come flooding back into my mind. Combine it with the bizarre situation with my nephew and I sit here poleaxed. Dazed. I am not able to sort out the bad blood from the concern for a lost relative. It is all jumbled up. Needless to say, conflicting emotions swirl around inside me. I have harbored hateful thoughts toward my brother, but never once did I include anyone from inside his circle. And now I deal with an intense guilt from thinking ill of someone and having hard times actually happen to them. Falling off a boat is not something I would wish on him or anyone. Some inconveniences and embarrassing moments maybe, but never once did I wish physical harm.

I came into this world the result of an unplanned pregnancy initiated out of wedlock. My parents were older, my brothers were in their teens, and all of a sudden there I am. The proverbial monkey wrench thrown into an already shaky family dynamic. As I grew up, I never felt I belonged. I never felt accepted. Reactions to me ran the gambit from outright meaness from one brother to total disregard by the more distant relatives we would visit from time to time. As a child, I had no information to go on. I thought they just did not like me. I was someone to hate. And somehow I deserved it.

It was not until my mother's death did I connect all the dots. Organizing her papers after her death, I found my parents' mariage certificate. I really looked at it. Unless I was premature, there is no way I was conceived while they were married. Those many years of feeling like an outsider immediately came into context. Suddenly I understood the cooler shoulders I had to deal with as a young kid. And it really pissed me off. That was the day I picked up a serious grudge. That was the day I stopped worrying about what anyone in my family thought of me and how I led my life. I had wasted so many years fishing for affection, it was now time for payback. I would show them. I would give them a taste of what filled my mouth for so many years. I would ignore them. Yeah, good plan.

Now I pay the price for that plan. The price for this grudge is shaping up to not be worth the emotional currency it costs. Of all the relatives I should have identified with, my missing nephew is now unable to know he was not alone. He too was not born into the best of family situations. My brother, fresh off a 17 or 18 year marriage hooks up with a co-worker. He marries her and they have a kid. He comes into this world an add on, an afterthought, a desperate mechanism to save a faltering marriage. And whether he understood or not, he most definitely grew up with serious baggage. God, I hope that baggage had nothing to do with his disappearance.

So I sit here pounding out my pain, hoping to relieve the guilt I have for not taking time to be closer to him. And I can't. I deserve this. He does not.