That satisfied sound you hear is me. Relaxing. Eating spaghetti in my favorite restaurant. Happy to be home.
Home. Funny how that word now applies to this little, sparse apartment here along Italy’s Adriatic Coast. Yet, it is home. It’s where I hang my hat. It’s where I sleep, where I shower. It’s my space. And no matter how big the space is, knowing it’s your space makes it home.
Northern Italy was great. Lake Maggiore was beautiful. We had sun. We had rain. We had clouds. No matter the weather, the lake was gorgeous. The accommodations magnificent. The opulence astounding.
But more than that, there was my little brother.
Did I ever mention how much I worship that kid? Many already know. Meeting him for the first time in 1978 was the thrill of a lifetime for me. This month marks 37 years since we first met. Spring Break of 1978 when I first threw my arms around him. And now, here we are in our fifties. A lifetime of experiences, pain and love to influence us.
It’s strange how we cling to images and experiences from the past rather than poking through the fog of pain to see reality. During this trip I saw my brother once again for the incredible man that he is. And I have to say that it took my breath away.
I guess it was a conversation I had with his Ukrainian girlfriend, Marina, that stunned me. She said, “Bob, you have no idea how much your brother loves you.” She told me that, prior to my arrival, all he did was talk about how excited he was that I was coming and weren’t we all going to have such a great time?
She told me that he talks about me all the time. He’s always wondering what he can do for me, how he can help me. I stared at her.
Are you kidding me?
And the minute that thought above crossed my mind, I deleted it because I realized it was from a bygone era of mistrust and pain. My brother has moved on. Why do I cling to past emotional infidelities?
I told Marina I felt self-conscious about his generosity because I couldn’t reciprocate. She waved aside my concerns. “Bob, he says you are the only family he has. He’s so appreciative of your efforts to research family history. You provide him with what he needs. Don’t worry. He wants to give back to you because you’ve given so much to him”.
Her comments struck me upside the head. As much as I like to think I’ve moved on I realized so often that I haven’t. My brother’s girlfriend was used as an instrument to help prod me along in my life. I can move a few steps forward not only in my life but in my relationship with my brother.
And after her words, I paid closer attention to my precious little brother. I tried to look at him not through the eyes of a worshipful, thankful older brother, but as a fifty-six-year-old man who has a brother, both of whom love each other deeply.
It felt good looking at him a little differently–as a man. A man I love tremendously, but a man. And I allowed myself to believe that my brother loves me as much as he does. I watched his behavior. I paid attention to his attitude and to his response to me. And I saw the affection. I had rejected it for so long.
I have to admit that I didn’t want to trust. Now I have to. And I want to. And it’s going to be easier. Strangely enough it will be easier not because of what his girlfriend told me but because of a simple gesture that I wouldn’t have noticed without Marina’s comments.
Our cousin, Sergio, had arranged for a tour of the Juventus stadium in Turin. We all posed for a photo hear the field. Sergio, Marina and my nephew stood. I knelt down in front. My brother knelt down beside me and put his arm around my shoulder.
Ordinarily, I would have been the one to perform such a gesture. I don’t do that as much anymore. Now he initiated it. And when I felt his arm around my shoulder, I felt the love of my brother. And when I saw the photo and the broad smile on his face, I saw the love that I’d been denying myself for so long.
It was a good trip.