هم نیا

کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 64

هم نیا

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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Sibling

After Dad was gone, my sister Amy suggested that the three of us siblings go to therapy.

I see a therapist from time to time when I’m feeling edgy or anxious, and Robin and I have been to a couples’ therapist periodically. We have an agreement. If either of us feels like going, the other can’t object. I suggested this system to her before we were even married, and it’s worked for us over the years.

So I said yes to Amy. Sure. Why not? Kyle was in, too.

We hired Robin’s therapist (female), and mine (male), to be in the room with the three of us. The Cranston kids. We talked for a while and then the therapists gave us their sense of things.

“This is quite normal,” they said. “Pretty bad childhood. Not as bad as some. Worse than others. You each found a way to survive. You each found a way to cope. That’s perfectly understandable, perfectly acceptable, perfectly right at the time. The problem is those same coping mechanisms that you used to survive a less-than-perfect childhood will cannibalize your life as an adult and prevent you from growing to your full potential.”

“Amy,” they assessed, “you came into the family when things were starting to go south. You never got proper love and nurturing. Your veneer is you’re perfectly fine without love. You adapted and learned to do without it.”

Amy is six years younger than I am. She was five when my dad left. So no stringing lights for Christmas. No homemade Halloween costumes. None of the good stuff. She only knew my mom lonely and drunk and consorting with unambitious, trying-to-get-by-with-the-least-amount-of-responsibility men. Amy had zero guidance, zero assistance or support in seeking an education. She left high school at sixteen and got her GED; then she moved out on her own and began to support herself, taking college classes at night.

Amy became a licensed vocational nurse and then went on to get her bachelor’s degree. Next was a master’s in education. Now she’s the administrator in a school system with a doctorate in education. Given her history, she looked destined to struggle. And now she has a doctorate. I really don’t know how she did it. She’s a miracle.

But when the therapists assessed her, she recognized herself immediately.

“Yep,” she said. “Yep, yep. That’s me.”

“Bryan,” they said, “you take your pain and you divert it. Instead of working through it, you deflect it. You use humor when you get embarrassed or vulnerable. You use performance to exorcise the demons. You use acting to sort through your emotional baggage. You get love from your work. It’s therapeutic for you. Cathartic.”

“Yep. You’re right.”

It’s true that I use humor to deflect. And it’s true that in acting, there’s safety in vulnerability. It’s the character crying, not Bryan. I found a channel—a use—for the anger and resentment and feelings of abandonment that came from my childhood. I flush those feelings through my system in my work. Is that always enough? No. I check in with my therapist when I hit a rough patch. I go for a run when I need a release. I’ve found multiple ways to cope. But acting has been my great salvation.

“Now Kyle,” they said, “you’re still holding it, brother. You think it’s your fault. You’re still feeling it.”

“Yep,” Amy and I said.

But Kyle looked at us quizzically. He couldn’t see it. He was still inside of it.

I thought of the ninetieth birthday party we’d thrown our father—just a few months before he died. Amy didn’t make any remarks because she didn’t really know my dad. I said something jokey—like a pretend eulogy—diverting my feelings, true to form. Then Kyle got up and did this whole long, elaborate tribute. He put a lot of time and effort into it.

If you had been in the audience and didn’t know our history, you’d say: “How lucky were these three kids to have a dad like that?” Amy and Robin and I were looking at each other and wondering: Who is Kyle talking about?

In my dad’s later years, Kyle talked to him every day. To the end, he was the dutiful son, attempting to mend the damage that years of absence had wrought. At times, it seemed to Amy and me that Kyle was trying to reinvent a perfect father-son relationship. My brother is a sensitive, thoughtful, compassionate, and hardworking man. He was generous and faithful to the relationship with my dad. He wanted to make it work.

I said to Kyle at one point: “I don’t think Dad is capable. He’s already done all he can do. Think about the movie we offered him! A chance to work with his sons in his chosen field. He was not willing to make it, even to discuss it.”

But Kyle had his own truth. His own memory.

My brother is two and a half years older than me. In our early lives, our experiences were very close: I think of our McNulty Avenue Garage productions. I think of how we supported each other as we stocked other people’s junk and odds and ends to sell. How we clutched each other as our dad went to beat the man who’d cut him off in traffic. How together we were jolted out of our lives and into the country, charged with killing chickens. I think of the epic motorcycle trip, those days we spent riding with no plan, no sense of obligation, the future and the road endlessly open in front of us. We were as close as brothers could be. But there were underlying differences—always. Kyle knew our dad longer while our family was still intact. He knew two and a half years more of the happy times. So Kyle, who was always the most emotional of the three of us, who always felt things more deeply, felt them longer, felt the blow of the loss of those happy times most.

I always thought of my brother at the bow of his ship getting battered, getting the brunt of the storm, and I was in the boat behind him. I had Kyle to guide me and show me the way through. He did things first, and I watched him, and then I did them. And that’s how I learned.

In so many ways, my brother is my savior. I love him. And I owe him a great deal for how my life turned out.

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