Rumble in the Oakwood
We spent the morning in the gym at the Sanderson, and then in the steam room. The atmosphere there is quite ethereal, with lots of soft lights, net curtains and mood music. Posey perhaps, but enjoyable.
After checking out and schlepping Alfred's purchases from Selfridges out to North London, we popped in to say hello to Mum and Dad. Vincent was there when we arrived - pleasant to see him and catch up.
Shortly after he left, the unexpected happened. Adam arrived unannounced.
Let me introduce Adam, as he has not been a frequent character in this diary. He is my younger brother and, although we were once close, he chose to cut me off from his family nearly four years ago. The essence of this broigus is hard to describe here in that I lack objectivity. So try to understand the other point of view and I'll state my own.
For Jewish people, there are only two ways to have an argument: either you yell and scream and die of a heart attack, or you suffer in silence, martyr yourself (Me? Angry?), and die later of cancer anyway. Our argument is more than a broigus, and marginally less than mutually assured destruction. I have been so hurt and infuriated by his behaviour that I have become incapable of describing my feelings coherently. I have spent the last four years blaming myself for what's happened, although I know, rationally, that the problem is his.
Adam cut me off from his wife and five lovely children as he feels that I would be a corrupting influence on my nieces and nephews. He will accept me but not my partner. For this reason he has not spoken with me for four years. He believes that I am making an unacceptable condition that family contact must include Alfred. From my perspective, I see Alfred as an important part of my life, and my relationship with my other nephew and niece and "quasi-families" as having been managed well, without the "gay" thing being too much of an issue after an initial period of adjustment. Ask Vincent, Yoel or Pita.
Apart from the obvious homophobia and bigotry inherent in these views (which he denies), there is a racism, an overt supremacism underlying this "licence to discriminate". He regards his marriage to Shoshana as being "normal" and my partnership with Alfred as "abnormal". I use these emotive words deliberately, as he has applied the same principles to excommunicate others in the family. But let's not dwell on Adam's problems with Vincent, Muriel and Ralph or Mum and Dad for now.
On a practical level, even if one accepts his wish to protect his children from external influences (the realisation that gay people exist and lead balanced normal lives), there are three strong countervailing factors that should surely persuade him that he is doing more harm than good. First, it would give my parents so much happiness to see their three sons together. Second, don't his children deserve a loving uncle? Third, do he and I not deserve the benefits of brotherhood? We return to the question of whether family ties have any meaning in this age.
I fail to understand the cod-intellectual rationalisation which Adam has used to bring so much grief to me and to the rest of the family.
So Adam walked through the door, and my first instinct was to protect Mum and Dad from a row by leaving immediately with Alfred. I had imagined that my reaction would be to hit, kick, punch or spit at him, so violent has my revulsion become - but when it happened, my emotions combined a desire to flee the situation and to berate him for his ludicrous bigotry.
I did speak briefly with Adam and asked him if he was prepared to do anything to heal the rift whilst our parents are still alive. He said yes, and we left.
On the way to the M25, I discussed the situation with Alfred and we decided that it would be better to return to have a conversation. So we did. Alfred (what a mensch and support to me) joined Mum, Dad, Shoshana and the children and I sat with Adam talking for an hour.
I'm not sure whether it did any good. In the end, it was his decision to exclude me, and it must be his decision to accept me. I'm no longer used to having to defend my homosexuality, or my choice of partners. I was troubled at his lack of mature intellectual judgement - it bothered me that he seems to value the consequences of his beliefs so lightly and bases his actions on such ill-thought-out arguments. I do hope that he'll realise that, even if the damage is grave and we're unlikely to be close again, the benefits of having a family - even if we disagree profoundly with one another - are greater than the adjustments necessary to accept our differences. But if he still chooses to ignore me, I will at least now feel fully at peace with myself and not under pressure to do any more.
We drove back to Cambridge. Drained.
Posted by nathan at January 5, 2003 10:01 PM
Thanks for signing in,
. Now you can comment. (sign out)
(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)