Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's time you met the Family....... Part 2

The continuation of the family primer, 6 of us in part 1, and 6 of us in part 2......

     It's ironic that the brother that I am closest to, I am actually closest to (he lives 5 miles from me) My brother Ace first appeared in October of last year in a blog about his twin's pig roast entitled "A Swine Time".  http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/10/swine-time.html
I didn't give Ace his nickname, his work buds did, but I think it fits him well.
Ace has less formal education than a lot of the family, he never went to college, but started immediately into the construction business.  If I told you that he didn't need it, and he was more "street wise" than my other siblings, you would think I was placating him, right up until you met Ace.  Ace could teach courses in relationship building, and he has a natural ability to get along in any crowd.  He has spent his life working in construction with the last decade plus centering on the environmental side of it, and he even had his own business, as a chimney sweep for a time.  This brother reminds me the most of my Dad, his flirtatiousness, his love of BBQing and parties, and his devotion to family, his siblings and his offspring.  Ace hosts the annual corn roast prior to our Family Reunion each year and has hosted a number of Thanksgiving family meals at his Firehouse (OK, admittedly it is weird to have a family corn roast the day prior to the big family reunion, but what can I say, we like each other that much).  As previously mentioned, my impressions of my siblings were formed early on, while growing up, and with Ace this is true too.  It seemed like he dated a lot in and after High School, and I remember a parade of girls coming through the house on the way to ski, go to the drive in, or to the disco.  He wrestled and was in track too, and one of the few things I didn't like about him then, was his cruel streak.  He would goad his younger brother, Aquaman, into a fight, by making him think he could be beaten, but then just pummel him into submission.  He did grow out of this, and is now protective over that same brother (As a matter if fact, he dislikes the Aquaman moniker, as he thinks that brother might get taken advantage of).  We talk almost daily, him first about his job and day, then me next about mine.  We both half listen, but you can do that when you are close, and frankly we tend to repeat ourselves, so we don't miss much.  Ace is happily married, in fact, for so long he often says of this marriage sentence, "If I had committed a murder, I'd be out by now. " He and his wife have raised two boys in their rural home, and I like the way they did it so well, I copied it.  The formula is Love, Scouts, Sports, Chores, Homework, Jobs, and Family.  I'll finish about this brother less I get accused of playing favorites, so this brother is rugged, family focused, a great cook, a husband and father, meet my brother Ace.

     Not everyone can claim a superhero as a brother, but I can.  It was only a couple of years ago that I learned that I had a superhero for a brother, and I outlined that story in "They Call My Brother Aquaman"
It's a great read, if I do say so myself.
This brother also spent some time in a branch of the military, and how fitting that it was the US Navy.  His first marriage did not survive the test of a separated family, but when he returned home, he started dating his High School sweetheart and married her.  She bore him a son (Aqualad?), and they currently live a few streets away from where we grew up.  When we were growing up, Aquaman worked at the same pizza place as I did, Papa Franks, and for me, he was defined by his generosity and hard work.  He ran a "candy business" for a while, where he would run to the candy store, purchase a lot of candy, and then re-sell it to his family and friends at the same prices he paid.  He'd also let you sample it.  He ran a landscaping business where he would mow a huge lawn for $5, or shovel a big driveway for the same price.  He was quite frugal too, and I distinctly remember one time when he wanted to bring the change he had saved to the bank, and he had to use a wheelbarrow to transport it all.  He took Home Economics with a friend of his one year, and each night they'd be at the house baking stuff, and each morning they'd be nothing at our house left to show for it, Aquaman would give her the baked goods each and every time.  He'd loan you his bank card if you asked him for it and you think I am kidding, but I'm not.  I had an Aquaman sighting just about a month ago.  I was sitting at the Sandbar with my wife and a few friends, and I had just finished telling them the story of Aquaman.  My back was to the water, but I suddenly heard a splash, Aquaman, had come out of the water, and was headed over to talk to a bartender.  He didn't see me, but I pointed him out to my friends, and was overheard by some kids at the table next to me.  I called him over, but he explained that he didn't have time to talk, that he had to retrieve a lost cell phone, and he dove into the water and under a boat at the adjacent marina.  Quicker than you could say "Holy Mackerel" he was back out of the water, with a black, wet, dead, cell phone in hand.  When he dove back into the water, and off into the sunset, his kid fans stood by the water and watched him until he disappeared, in true Aquaman style.  So this brother is generous to a fault, hard working, a terrific swimmer, and an entrepreneur, meet my brother, Aquaman.

     I introduced my last brother in a blog in January of this year entitled "3 brothers, a Shopping Cart and a Very Steep Hill (http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2011/01/3-brothers-shopping-cart-and-very-steep.html)  That particular story was about a wild, careening ride down a path of possible self destruction, but also can be used as an a metaphor for my brother Redface's life.
I'll start with his early life like I did with the others.  Redface was academically near the top of the family, but struggled socially.  He participated in some of the same things as my other siblings, Columbian Squires, Altar Serving, Scouts, and Track (in fact he spent a lot of his life running to and from things), but never excelled in any of them.  He also did some things that no one else had done, like join the Civil Air Patrol. Unlike my brother Ace, he was awkward around the fairer sex, and this defined a lot of his High School experience for me.  I remember that he had a girl that clearly had defined their relationship as "friends" only and each and every day, he would walk out to her house a couple of miles from ours to go speed walking with her.  When he eventually tried to move that relationship to the next level, even the walking stopped. He ran away more often too, and this wanderlust continued in his life. We worked at the same pizza place, Moreys as adults, and when we showed back up on Mondays and asked each other where we went the last weekend, I'd say "The movies" and he'd say "Connecticut".  He'd leave with no plan, sleep in his car and just go somewhere, looking for that elusive something for him to define his life.  It wasn't the Army although he did a stint there, or his marriage that seemed troubled from the start and I can't say if it was fatherhood as he didn't have much of a chance at that before he self destructed.  I've promised to tell that story someday, but I need to do it when I can find deeper meaning in it, and that time is not this morning. I'll finish by saying that this brother was troubled, smart, active, adventurous, driven to find himself and that I miss him, Meet my brother, Redface.

     Although it's a lot like writing your own eulogy, I have to put myself in this blog somewhere, so at the very least my siblings can comment below and tell me if I got it right or not.  I use my family that way a lot, like a moral compass or to correct my steering if I get off track.  Now that isn't to say I've taken their advice easy or often, but I do take it, I just take it in my own time.  I hadn't realized that I had named myself in my blog until a few people had approached me and asked if I was "The Ongion", so I guess I am.
  I first appeared in the very first blog entitled " First Blog - a must read for new followers" (http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/07/first-blog-must-read-for-new-followers.html) which seems a little conceited cuz who was following me before I wrote a blog?  I think a little conceited is an apt description of me sometimes, and sure throw in narcissistic as well.   Let's start with my childhood too.  Being the youngest boy in the family, and the baby for a 4 year period, I got a lot of attention and a lot of resentment for that attention.  I know because when my sister was born after me I resented her stealing all my attention.  If brother Redface ran for finding meaning, I ran for the spotlight in the room.  It happened more after High School, but I was the class clown for a lot of my life, and I wasn't voted most talkative, because I was a shrinking violet.  I wasn't athletic in High School (I tried volleyball for a season), but I was industrious, and worked all the way through, mostly slinging wings at Papa Franks.  I valued my friendships highly then, and still do, but admittedly the group has changed over the years.  I am a family man.  I never miss our reunions and have helped to plan and generate a few of our events that thrust us together all year, the golf tournament, the progressive dinner, family camping trips, men's shopping night, Thanksgivings, and the occasional Yarger bar crawl (One time we did this in Geneva, in a bar with a predominantly Black clientele and just enjoyed the patrons walking in, and then back out again to check and see if the bar had sold)  I started a family web site over 12 years ago, Yarger World (that's not conceited, that's just factual) that is still very active today.   I learned how to be a Dad from mine and I hope when people see me parent, they see some of my Father in me.  I spent a lot of my life rebelling against rules and the establishment, whether this was at my jobs (sorry former bosses), at home (sorry Mom and Dad), or in organizations I joined (sorry everyone else).  I'm not saying I can't control this behavior, but every personality profile done on me has identified this trait, that I don't value order and discipline like most people.  Back to my description, I married my wife 24 years ago, and we both think we got the better part of the deal.  I have 3 children that have survived growing up with a Father like me and thrived in the environment. I'll describe myself as intelligent, family-focused, seeking God (but looking when convenient) an attention whore, a certified pain in the ass, a salesman, a decent father and husband and a faithful friend.  Oh, and I like to drink Sapphire gin and smoke cigars, meet me, The Ongion.  

     My next sister I haven't really introduced yet, as I hadn't decided on a moniker for her completely, until now. This one is taken entirely from our childhood, and in my recollection it defined her to me and maybe others in my family.  I'll call her Tear-y (pronounced teery).  If I was the crybaby in the family up until then, when she came along, she brought that title to new, unseen before, levels.  She'd cry when I'd scare her, she'd cry about life and boyfriends, about being treated unfairly, about chores, and even about Birthday spankings.
One of the defining moments of our relationship was one year where she refused to come down to the table at dinner because she didn't want her Birthday spankings (now my wife thinks this was a cruel practice, but I wonder how many of my siblings feel they were scarred by a few playful swats on the softest part of their anatomy, once a year before you got cake and presents?).  She cried for so hard and long, that Dad gave in and she didn't get spanked that year, but got the cake and presents anyway.  My crying just got me spanked harder, so there seemed an inequity in that.  She seemed to lead a pretty normal life in High School, friends, boyfriends, track, National Honor Society, proms, etc.  It's interesting though, that if you talk to her now, she paints these years much darker than I recall them to be, maybe she lost the brighter colors on her palette later on or maybe I was unaware of her inner struggles?  If it wasn't bad enough that she stole all the attention from me, she then tried hanging around me and my friends. No one wants a bratty younger crybaby tagging along after them, I know because my older brothers told me so.  Tear-y has worked in a variety of places over the years, and she started her own home based business a few years ago.  She also went back to school to finish her Bachelors Degree while her and her husband raised their family (two daughters), a feat I have yet to accomplish.  On raising her children I will say only this, I am pretty sure the words "Suck It Up" have never been uttered in her house.  I've met people that try to protect their children from the pains, both physical and mental,  of the world, and if they are successful, they end up with children less prepared for the pains, both physical and mental that the world dishes out.  It seems an odd choice, but maybe not for someone who didn't take their Birthday spankings.  This same sister, however, did me and my family a huge service by re-purchasing our family home, and taking in our Mother. She requires around the clock care, and while some family members and aides help out, the brunt of this workload falls to her. There is not doubt in my mind that my Mother has been far better off in this situation than she would have been at any nursing home.  For this I am eternally grateful.  So this sister gets characterized as intelligent, able, emotion-ridden, and a caretaker, meet my sister, Tear-y.

     I'm going to have some fun with naming or rather, not naming my last sister.  The best TV shows keep you guessing about certain characters, like why you never saw Wilson's face on Home Improvement or why it took so many years to name Kramer on Seinfeld, so for now I'm calling her She-who-shall not-be-named.  I'm mainly doing this because I can capitalize on all those kids searching the Internet for Harry Potter references and end up skewing the numbers of hits on this blog, but also because I'm not ready to name her yet.
She's my youngest sister, so she has time.  Think how this worked for the Unknown Comic (remember him?)  This sister was pretty tough growing up.  I remember one time at Sonnenberg Park, she tried to jump off the Merry-Go-Round and caught her foot as she exited.  She fell face first and was dragged on her hands over the rocks and sand, until we could stop it (it was kind of funny cuz we had to jump over her each time she went by, like timing a jump rope).  She came up with open wounds on her arms, knees and hands, but she didn't cry (Maybe I'll call her Toughy) She was spoiled of course, because she was the youngest (What! you got to go to dinner with Mom and Dad?), and the household she grew up in was different then mine and probably unrecognizable to my brother the Sergeant-Major, but I'll bet that happens in my house too.  She had great friends growing up in school and kept her best friend all the way through.  Every time she introduces me to her friends I want to steal them, I have a better record of doing this with my brother Ace's friends, but She-who-shall-not-be named hangs out with a better class of people.  She married her college boyfriend and plunked herself smack in between mine and Ace's house.  I think family is important to her, well at least more important than house cleaning.  I had to throw that line in because she thinks I judge her on her clutter, I really don't because I grew up with clutter, but I do recognize a good source for stories when I see one (She once left a pair of jeans on the line so long, that her husband got stung by the bees that had built a nest in them when he went to put them on, crotch humor, gotta love it).  I think they run a tougher household than we grew up in, they have church, chores, yard work, and limited TV (they might be the last house out here without cable or dish, maybe I'll name her Sister Flintstone)  One of her kids acted up on the bus last year, so she made him walk home from school and followed him in her van, you gotta love it, or report her to Social Services.  Her living so close has made our parenting easier, cuz if our kids act up, we just have to threaten sending them to her house.  I can't finish without mentioning her spirituality as she makes it look easy, but prioritizes it so well.  My wife wants me to name her after a Saint, but my parents already did that, so it seems redundant to me.  So this sister is spiritual, tough, an errant housekeeper, living in the stone age and a great mother, meet my sister She-who-shall-not-be-named. (Author's note: About a year after this was written, I actually spent a little time trying to assign this sister a better name, and an anonymous reader suggested Wilson, and it stuck) 

     This brings the family primer to a close.  I am sure there will be some discussion on how I've characterized by siblings, I can hardly expect everyone to share my opinions, how could they, they haven't had the same experiences with and around them that I have. Many years ago I heard a great story from a former Catholic priest Father Jim Callan.  It was about a priest in Maryland who made sandwiches each day and distributed them to the homeless in a local park.  On a slow news day, his story got picked up by the news wires and people started sending in unsolicited donations. Father Callan said each check was sent back with the same unapologetic note that simply read "Make Your Own Damn Sandwiches"  So, to my critics, I simply offer the same advice, write your own damn blog...... so says the Ongion.. 


Daphne Mays said...

I have greatly enjoyed reading about all of your siblings! Now to see if you survive the next week...

Chris Yarger said...

It is surprising to hear how much I am like my father. Maybe the moral of his life is not about what he did when alive, but how it has effected those who he left behind.

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