My Big Brother…

Some of my earliest memories of my older brother’s interactions with me were not what one would envision as being one of endearing mentor-ship, at all!

As a matter of fact, due to my brother’s recent passing, I was once again introduced to an opportunity to recollect the earliest episodes of my life that I shared in proximity with my older brother.

If I were to say the least about this relationship, it would not aid the personal discovery for meaning.

Nor would it be able to sprinkle a few bread crumbs along the path for others that may aid them in reaching a better understanding about the mystery of life.

Thus, in the telling of my story about this relationship with my older sibling, I suppose the only value to be retained from those defining moments in my life are what may be appreciated by others from these words.

It’s kind of funny but, the less than loving experiences in our lives can act as a yardstick, so to speak.

These can help to scale our perspectives and lend credence to formulating our own capacity to give and to receive love.

I suppose in retrospect big brothers may through example provide their younger siblings with a foundation for their own understandings.

Good or bad examples in the presentation of character, however dissimilar can by way of such examples offer a tutorial for the value or debit’s in conduct.

Realize that the psyche of a youngster that has not yet evolved would not have been grounded in a foundation for absolutes.

As a certain degree of naivety prevails in the innocence that has yet to become informed about the hard knocks in life.

Therefore, a vulnerability exist in putting one’s trust in those who have been here for a little longer.

In the mind of let’s say an eight year old a hopeful belief will exist that they being just a bit older would keep an eye out for the younger ones in tow.

Unfortunately for both of us, this was not the case, with my brother.

I do not have a single memory of my brother that isn’t tainted with has utter and complete disregard for my well being.

Throughout my childhood he repeatedly lead me directly into harms way and in several instances left me completely abandoned.

One early example was at the age of only five years old, while we were on a family outing to the snow, he forced me to seek refuge into the wilderness.

That year we had an unusually low level snow fall. My parents took us all up to the low level freshly fallen snow up by a town called Newhall, CA.

It was very exciting to play in the snow. As this was a very unusual event for Southern California weather.

We found a small ravine beside the road and began making shapes in the freshly fallen snow.

My brother decided to make hand packed hard snow balls and then relentlessly pummeled me, hitting me directly in the face several times.

This non-stop barrage continued until I escaped back into the ravine and found a forestry road.

I began walking on the lightly snow covered road hoping to find a way to circle back to the rest of my family.

Unfortunately with no real sense of where I was (having never been there before nor knowledge of the geography), I was essentially lost.

I kept walking and walking through thicker and thicker snow and eventually came upon another group of people in a meadow beside another road.

There were two men who began asking me questions about where I had come from and where I lived.

Amazingly even at five years old, I knew where I lived. And I was able to provide pretty good directions for getting back home. So much so that these two men were able to give me a ride home, which was some twenty miles or so away.

Of course no one was at my home to receive me so they went next door to our neighbor lady and she said she’d look after me until my parents got home.

She contacted the police who were looking for me by then and they notified my parents somehow that I’d gotten home safe.

Regardless, I would always try to hang out with my older brother as a kid but he was having no part of me.

It might have been the best thing for me. As I’m sure, if I had hung out with him more it would have only have lead me into more trouble.

In another episode, I was around seven years old when he and I took a rare bike ride up to the railroad tracks just north of Roscoe Bl.

The gravel road paralleling the train tracks was a common hangout for a lot of us kids in those days.

But on this day my big brother got some crazy idea that he should lay a large metal pipe with a hunk of concrete on one end across the tracks.

Even at seven, I knew that this was a very bad idea so after he put it across the tracks I went over and removed it.

He tried to put the pipe back on the tracks again and I took it off again!

Unbeknownst to my brother there was a Railroad Detective directly across the street watching the whole thing go down.

When the Detective approached us, my brother bolted through the junkyard that was adjacent to the tracks, leaving me to fend for myself.

I was recovering from a recent head injury that had put twenty five stitches in the side of my head about a week earlier so, I was in no condition to climb fences and escape.

The Detective took me to my home and lectured my father about keeping better track of me.

As far as I know, my brother got away scot free!

At home around that same age, I for some reason was assigned the upper top bunk bed.

I suppose, this was due to my older brother having to wear an full torso body cast.

He was entered into an experimental program that was run by the Children’s Orthopedics Hospital in Los Angeles.

The rigid Plaster of Paris Cast was an attempt to correct the scoliosis of his spine, which was caused from him having contracted Polio at the age of three.

I guess the logic was that it was not so easy for him to climb up into the upper bed so, that upper location became mine.

The biggest problem with this assignment was that I was a restless sleeper. And without any railing I’d end up free flighting off the top bunk, head first and slam my forehead onto the hard wooden floor below.

When I’d come to, I’d have a throbbing knot on my forehead and would get taken to Dr. Handler’s office for an X-ray.

After what seem to be countless episodes, Dr. Handler said that if I had one more concussion like this that he’d need to report it to the authorities.

Well, evidently under the veil of that threat my parents seem to be amicable to making some changes in my sleeping arrangement.

I’m not sure but, I believe that’s when my eye sight became affected from so many slams to the floor.

Since then I can’t seem to track and read a sign on a moving vehicle or lock onto a moving football or baseball. I just have to guess when it’s arriving.

This pretty much eliminated me from being able the participate in any bat or ball games.

Around this time my brother was reaching puberty and as a result one day he thought he’d experiment with sodomy on his younger brother.

I wasn’t having any part of it but, my younger brother of two years I’ve heard years later was actually molested by him.

When I was about ten, my older sister got married for the first time and my parents put on a nice Catholic Wedding for her.

Evidently the booze was running freely and my brother and one of his buddies Richard proceeded to feed me some mixed drink of hard liquor and soda pop.

It didn’t take much at ten to get a kid inebriated and make him a falling down drunken spectacle, just for their own sadistic entertainment…hum?

This was how my big brother looked after my well being, time after time.

A couple years later at fourteen, I thought I was lucky enough to join my brother, his friend Richard and a few others of their friends for an outing.

We headed out to our family homesteaded cabin that was located about 30-miles east of Palmdale.

The older guys were setting up some target practicing. I was just trying to hang around with the big boys and his friends Richard and Bruce thought it would be funny to pants me in front of a couple of the girls they had with them.

These guys were twice my size and they succeeded in getting me down to my underwear.

I broke loose grabbed my pants, and with torn shirt and shoes in hand, I got dressed and headed home walking through the desert.

It was July 20th 1969, the day American ingenuity, innovation and perseverance landed on the moon.

I walked thirty miles that afternoon through the open desert’s July heat with no water or provisions all the way to Hwy 138, and then I hitch hiked home.

This time my brother got some heat from the County Sheriff when they had to send up a helicopter to look for me.

But it never changed his MO when it came to looking out for his younger brothers.

About a year latter at fifteen and a half, just after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake my brother and I were riding our motorcycles and inadvertently turned off of San Fernando Rd. directly into a police road blockade at Balboa Bl.

There were about five or six cops huddled together, bored as hell I guess blockading access up onto Balboa Bl.

When the cops began questioning my brother about where we were going, my brother jumped off his bike and bolted up over the hill next to the road.

I wasn’t surprised but, it sure got the cops attention! After all, I already was quite familiar with his MO. Although I hadn’t a clue as to why he decided to bolt.

About four cops pursued him up and over the hill and one motorcycle cop still at the blockade pulled out his gun and ordered me to the ground.

With my hands raised, I dismounted my motorcycle and followed his orders.

He began searching through my jacket pockets and found my pack of Marlboro Reds in one of the upper pockets.

He open the flip top on the pack and discovered a few cigarettes and two tightly rolled joints intermingled in between the smokes.

Well, needless to say that was just enough evidence in those day to get me arrested and get a free ride down to the Van Nuys Jail.

Due to being a minor at the time, I ended up getting released to my parents later that day but this time at least my brother didn’t escape justice.

When the four pursuing cops finally caught up with my brother they gave him a good old L.A.P.D. “fist to cuffs” and a little reminder about what for!

They also arrested him and said he was bloodied and bruised during the pursuit episode while resisting arrest…hum?

Latter during that summer my brother introduce me to Boones Farm Apple Wine on a bet that I couldn’t finish the whole bottle on the ride back home from Turner’s Liquor Store.

The store was about three blocks from our home and for that five dangling bucks in my face, I took that bet! This might have been the event that turn me off to gambling in the future…

I finished the bottle and about ten minutes later puked my guts out, all along while my brother was laughing his ass off.

About a year latter my brother got an opportunity to work in Las Vegas, NV. Thus he and his new bride moved to Vegas to work on swimming pools. I heard he’d gotton a position doing some of the plumbing on the MGM Grand’s pool.

As things would play out for him about a year or so later that opportunity would come to an end.

Once again, my brother would reach out to my Dad and burden him with asking for help. This was a life long MO for him. This time it was to borrow my Dad’s pickup truck. Never mind that my Dad’s truck was his livelihood.

My Dad’s truck was needed in order to tow a trailer full of my brother’s belongings because my brother’s tiny Ford Courier pick up wasn’t large enough to tow the large trailer.

The problem was that my Dad wasn’t available to drive to Las Vegas and back so, he’d needed to recruit a driver. Well, my older sister and her husband volunteered and asked for me to come along and help with the heavy lifting of my brother’s things.

We headed out to Las Vegas and when we arrived my brother had most all of his things tied down on a U-Haul Trailer ready to return to L.A..

We headed out on HWY-15 toward Baker, CA. It was a hot blistering desert day with temps well over 100 degrees. My brother was driving, and my brother in-law was sitting shotgun. I got stuck in the middle with a 5-gallon glass Sparkletts water bottle resting between my legs.

The stretch of HWY-15 between Las Vegas and Baker had a slow rising increase in elevation. Thus, with the double axle trailer tagging behind and with the summer heat my Dad’s truck was beginning to over-heat. We’d already stopped once on the way to pour some water into the radiator then continued on with the journey.

As we began heading up the ascending grade, my brother began to increase our speed!

I assumed he was applying his flawed logic! And that logic was that once we’d reach the pinnacle of the elevation climb a few miles before Baker, CA that we’d be on the downhill side. Then this would put less of a strain on the truck’s motor helping it to run cooler.

During the climb the wind had picked up and you could feel the sudden gust pushing on the truck and trailer. While being buffeted by the gusting wind it caused us to slightly sway back and forth.

Like the Brain Surgeon that my brother was, he’d evidently also loaded the heaviest things of his belongings last on the trailer, rather than dispersing the load more evenly.

Anyone knowing the 101 elementary school course about towing trailers knows that having too little or too much tongue weight on a trailer can greatly effect it’s stability especially at higher speeds, let alone, high winds!

Well as our luck would have it, my brother’s irresponsible focus at this juncture was to speed up. He was (for God knows why) trying to pass a semi truck that was towing a set of doubles.

The truck was doing about 70-mph so, my brother took us up to about 85-mph and began to pass! As we came into the wind draft of the semi, it seemed like the gusty wind had eased. But, as we exited the truck’s draft a big gust hit us!

This caused our truck and trailer to begin to swerve back and forth, side to side. The swerving momentum took on a life of it’s own increasing with each back and forth sensation, until it became quite obvious that my brother was no longer the driver of the truck!

By only God’s grace, we missed hitting the fully loaded 80,000-lbs semi by inches as we meandered all over both lanes while recklessly skidding uncontrollably.

After sliding some +1,400-ft. (according to the CHP Report) a wheel came off the trailer that we were towing when it violently smacked the curb.

This catapulted the truck (still connected to the trailer) to veer off of the Highway.

The truck careened air born over a 30′ embankment as the trailer finally broke free. The last thing I remember was hitting my forehead smack dab, squarely on the throat of the Sparkletts bottle resting between my legs when the truck plowed into the other side of the embankment.

The next thing I knew, I awoke laying in a hospital bed in Baker, CA about a day or two later. I had a knot on my forehead the size of a lime and a slight case of amnesia, which is associated with brain damage.

Well, call me crazy if you want but, I guess it’s needless to say (but I’ll say it anyways) that this episode left me quite apprehensive about riding in any vehicle that my brother was driving in the future…hum?

Thus, I guess it’s fairly clear why my brother and I never seemed to connect in any meaningful way in our adult life after this event.

If the truth was known, I never needed to forgive him because I came to understand that he simply didn’t have the capacity to love me.

If my forgiveness would have actually meant anything, I would have certainly extended it to him but the reality is he had nothing to be forgiven for, from my perspective.

The only question I ever had was; why he didn’t have the capacity to show me love, care, kindness or just simply have any regards for my well being? I’ll never know on this side of the dirt because he passed away on November 18th, 2021.

I received a phone call on the 17th from his daughter indicating that he was on his last leg of his journey. She said that if I wanted to talk with him that now would be a good time.

Truthfully, I had nothing to say that I hadn’t already said some ten years earlier at my father’s funeral services.

And that was; I never understood the choice in the path of life that he journeyed down and that I may never fully come to understand his plight on this side of the dirt. I explained that I no longer sought answers as to why he had such disregard for me and the others in his family.

I told him that I’d see him on the other side someday and maybe then God could explain it to us, but for time I have left, I have no time to spend trying to make any sense of him any longer.

My father used to have a saying for people like my brother and it goes like this; “they are to be pitied more than scorned”.

I suppose this is very apropos in regards to the subject of forgiveness, as I believe I pitied my brother after every episode of disregard for my well being.

Pity goes beyond forgiveness as it implies empathy for the perpetrator that is guilty of the inflections of injustices.

Pity also releases one from the chains that can bind us from being unforgiving.

Pity is the truth that will set you free!

It’s an exchange, a role reversal for the observations being made. It’s the opportunity to observe being observed!

And in doing so, one has a chance to view wrong doings, and see the clear path to taking the higher road that got missed by another.

While it may be crystal clear to one observer, another may not be able to carry the burdensome weigh of their free choices.

Not all can see the path less traveled.

As in choosing and taking the right path one must also have the foresight to interpret the map in order to reach the correct destination.

I speak in such metaphors, as they attempt to expose the many parallels for life’s similarities.

A key to remaining anchored in right mindedness is to free ourselves from the contingencies in thinking that indulge otherwise.

While it’s true that we have free choice, it’s equally true that there are consequences or rewards that come as a result of making all such decisions.

Judgement of others is left to the Lord but realizing the distinction between right and wrong thinking through observational awareness can help to identify those who are walking on a similar path or not!

I imagine my brother having made his choices to walk the paths of his life’s choosing and in doing so, I observed an opportunity in choice to do otherwise.

Quite possibly, this may have been the deciding factor in God putting him in my life in the first place?

Thus there is no need of my forgiveness, as I do not hold him responsible for any consequence to my life that came due to his proximity.

I’ve actually served an apprenticeship in the experence of the lessons learned.

The consequence was only to his own unfulfilled potential to express a more complete loving example of caring kindness.

Thus, I’m sure you’d agree that it’s a pity that one would choose to exemplify anything less of one’s self than their full and greatest potential…hum?

Click HERE to return to Michael Chaffee’s Biography”…

Writing with the Veiled…