My siblings and I grew up with both parents who were married and who stayed married until “death did them part” when our mother died in August of 1999. Yet in so many ways it is as if my brother Clint and I grew up in one family and my sister Lynne another.
Clint and I are separated in age by 1 year and 5 months. Our sister is 6 or 5 years younger depending on which of us you’re comparing her age to. But age alone isn’t what separates us though we lived and grew up together.
Clint and I knew our father as a man with a severe temper, who viewed his family as possessions, and who thought personal privacy didn’t apply to anyone other than himself. He was often physically abusive, even more verbally abusive and rare the time he wasn’t emotionally abusive. The scars he left in all our lives will never fade completely.
My brother though determined early in his life that the things that I let keep me “down” were going to be rungs of a ladder he’d climb to get out of the life we knew as “family”. My dad wasn’t a huge fan of education period much less for a girl, so when I brought home low grades it wasn’t as much an issue as it was if Clint brought home less than an “A” in any subject. In first grade he made a “C” in art – Daddy beat him. Clint used that unfair and unreasonable expectation, that he never make less than an “A” to propel him towards high grades and he did so taking classes he was interested in. While Daddy fumed over Clint’s choice to take calculus instead of “shop” or auto mechanics, and berated Clint at every opportunity he could never say Clint was a failure academically. Our living room walls was covered with Clint’s awards, certificates and trophies. As soon as Clint could he graduated high school and went away to college. He never looked back.
Clint overcame every obstacle to obtaining his “higher education” which to date includes a masters from seminary, in education and now he’s working on his PhD and he did it with next to no help from our parents. He was never one to stand in the wings of the stage and wish he could perform – Clint did it! He worked through all the “issues” our childhood left him with by utilizing professional help, common sense, much prayer and marrying the woman who understands where he came from and where he is now.
Though he is the “middle child” because he was male he was usually expected to be and acted more like the “eldest”. Though there were years where in order for both of us to heal we didn’t talk much, never talked about the past and were separated by 100’s of miles we have regained a similar closeness we had as young children. Clint drove from Mobile the first day I was in the hospital in November 2010 to sit with me in the emergency room and when I was too weak to pick up my fork he fed me. He came back twice more before I was discharged.
It is never easy to overcome the abusive life my brother and I knew as children and teenagers especially when that abuse was never acknowledged outside the home. (Though years later people would tell me they knew but “back then” you didn’t intervene in family matters”.) But my brother has while maintaining his kindness, willingness to help others, a drive to succeed for his self and a peace with who he is…yes, he’s a hero and I treasure him beyond words.