Eric Louie Columnist
Eric Louie did the Sterling Men’s Weekend in March 1995. Ever since he has been a proponent of the initiation event. Though the Men’s Weekend is not a sanctioned MDI event, many of the MDI men had their start in men’s work at that weekend and still support men to attend. To keep the spirit of the Men’s Weekend alive, Louie offers this column, maintaining confidentiality as necessary.
He is that man with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye on your men’s team.
He’s the man at work that you disagree with and are disagreeable with. He’s the man at the local Starbucks that waits on you but rubs you the wrong way every time you talk to him. He’s the classmate of yours who you couldn’t trust to be a good study partner because he’s have some excuse for being unprepared. He’s the guy on your basketball or other sports team who not only gets defensive when you point something out to him, but goes on the attack calling you out on something unrelated in the process. He’s that chickenshit guy, who most of the time is a normal, rational human being but at the most inopportune time, chooses to go ballistic on you for what seems like no good reason, or at least, no reason that YOU can identify. An unpredictable keg of dynamite, and you don’t know what’s going to ignite the fuse.
That was my late brother, Christopher. In legal terms for divorce, we call them “irreconcilable differences.” That is what I had with him. Irreconcilable differences. And I could use any one of a number of strategies – not talking to him, agreeing with everything he said, ignoring him if he said something offensive to me, trying to reason with him, getting angry with him, arguing with him. Nothing worked. There was no way for me to get along with my brother. It was the biggest challenge of my life – more than getting along with my ex-wife in the early years of divorce, worse than bad bosses or customers, worse than having no money and having utilities turned off on me, even worse than the death of my mother, which I actually believe had a direct relation with my brother’s demeanor.
I would love to justify my actions and say “I gave my best.” But I don’t know what my best looks like in this situation. My relationship with him was always contentious, conflicted, difficult – I am the oldest brother, and I made plenty of mistakes in my life (alcoholic, drug addict, divorced, home foreclosure, series of lost jobs, financial difficulties), which made me not very respectable. Then, I sobered up. I achieved some limited work and financial success. I took the Sterling Men’s Weekend. I did the point program. Our point program had an open house as the next to last meeting. I brought my brother and my then roommate. My brother never forgave me for the “make a decision” pressure that is given at those open houses. He would occasionally refer to it as the “Sterling Men’s Club” because he knew it would irritate me and I’d want to correct him, which always turned into an uncomfortable argument, complete with name-calling and insults.
Some of you know that my brother died in July 2017. He died of a heart attack at age 55, but he was very ill, with heart disease (quadruple bypass in 2015), kidney failure (and dialysis since 2009), and advanced diabetes, with the insulin and medication likely the cause of his kidney failure.
For those of you with good or even great relationships with your brothers, I am happy for you. It’s not always a guarantee, for sure, to get along with your siblings. I have good relationships with my other two brothers. We might disagree, but we can work those things out and agree to disagree, although we do see eye to eye on many issues.
So, it’s a different kind of hell to be a Sterling Men’s Weekend graduate with all of that technology and tools and still struggle with a sibling relationship. And to be an MDI man, with support from a team of men and great relationships, and leadership training and exercising, and still not be able to have a good relationship with a younger brother.
There’s a moral to this story.
And the moral is one that I don’t care much to admit. My support of other men is very conditional. It’s conditional on my reaction of you. There have been so many men that I’ve supported even when I knew they were wrong because that was our credo, whether it be MDI or Sterling. I wanted to see them win. But men I didn’t like, didn’t have a good relationship with, men who I really disagreed with, what did I do? I avoided them and chose to not participate in their support. It’s easy to hide out like that when there’s a team of 10, so I hid behind the men who were supportive of that man.
But you can’t hide when there’s a team of one.
So, while I sometimes tried to support my brother, more often than not I chose to ignore or not support him.
That’s the story of my relationship with my younger brother Chris, may he rest in peace. I have not shed a tear for his passing since he died, and I’m not ashamed to admit that to all of you. I’m glad he found eternal peace.
2 thoughts on “A Real-life Story of a Real-life Brother”
Loved this story and the pain / honesty / growth that you admit to Louie.
I fought with my 20 month-younger brother all the time when we were younger . . . then miraculously, after we went our separate ways in college, we began to get along a lot.
Like we accepted the strengths and challenges that the other young man face(d). And we still do almost 40 years later.
I am sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing it.
Thanks Rubin. I appreciate your comment and your story about your brother. I wish I’d had that eventual harmony with my brother, but the “missing” and separation of the years didn’t help. I’m just grateful to him that he helped care for dad for his last 5 years, albeit begrudgingly. -Louie