My Brother the Inventor
This is a story of relationships, sibling rivalry, and love. It is a true story and my brother has actually given me permission to write it, "even the bad parts" he says. I love my brother. I am sharing our childhood here with you. Perhaps it will get tough here and there, do not suffer, we turned out okay.
My Mother's Favorite Picture of Butch
My mother's favorite picture of Butch is him as a toddler, reaching his hand out toward a board resting on a pair of sawhorses in the back yard. He has the sneakiest smile on his face you ever saw. That is because just moments before, our mother had said: "Now Butch, don't you touch that board." Then she ran in the house and grabbed her camera, to come back and snap the picture. She knew he would touch it. She said she ran, afraid he'd do it before she got back.
It's my favorite photo also. I was not born yet and would not be for many years after this photo was taken, so these stories are from those my mother told me.
When Butch was born on January 5th,1951, he was premature. As a matter of fact our mother was in an emergency room as her labor had started too early. They had given her a shot to stop it and make her sleep. A nurse walked by and heard her moan, so went and prepared another shot. Mommy said, "She pulled back the sheet and screamed Oh my God he's already here!" Butch was the tiniest of all of us, and red. The nurse handed him to our mother and she stroked his tiny head and said "Hello Butch." and it stuck.
He was actually named for his father on his birth certificate, but no one ever called him that, he was always Butch.
Now our mother was married three times, her first to Bob Mayley did not last and the daughter she named Judy stayed with Bob's sister who had no children of her own. Mother married again and had a girl first Bonnie, and second Butch.
I guess Bonnie was two or so when Butch came home, and she tormented him as our mother would tell, but Butch loved her and would do whatever she said. Even if she pinched him hard so he would cry, he still went everywhere she went.
Mom used to tell her "Bonnie, some day he'll be bigger than you and hit you back then you'll be sorry." Bonnie would say, "He'll never be bigger than me, and he'd never hurt me."
She was right about the fact that he would never hurt her. But he was a lot bigger. Bonnie is the shortest, I think 5'1or so, Butch would grow to 6'2"
Now as I said our mother married three times, that story is for another time. This being about Butch I wasn't there and go by her story. When she told Butch she had gotten married he was so excited. He ran around telling the neighbors "We got married, I got a Dad."
I left his name out but Butch's dad, our mother says, had loved Bonnie very much, but they were poor and he had not wanted any more children, so he was never around. Butch did not know him. Mom and the two kids lived with our maternal grandparents, the Reeds. This was the first time he had a dad.
I tell this because sibling rivalry is a terrible thing, it can cause rifts that span decades.
My mother, being a wife, eventually brought home another child from the hospital, our brother Joey. Butch was okay with that, at least it was a boy, and when that boy was older he'd have someone to play with.
Nearly four years later I would come along. I think they were still okay then, from all I hear.
The next part I learn from various sources. My grandma Thomas tells me that when I was six months old our mother went in the hospital. The four of us kids went to the farm in West Virginia, to stay with our Grandparents on our father's side, the Thomas'. The following year when Mom was in the hospital again Bonnie and Butch stayed in Columbus, while Joe and I went to the farm. When siblings are separated, it does not always make them grow fonder of each other.
In many cultures if the crops fail after a child is born, or a stranger arrives, the calamity is blamed on the stranger. I wonder if this is why children blame others when something bad happens, like illness, or divorce, even death. We must blame someone, sometimes we blame ourselves. It has been apparent to me for many years, that while they may not know it, they must have thought it was me.
My Memories of Butch
My earliest memory of Butch is I was standing in the hallway looking in the mirror, and he said "What are you looking at yourself for, you're ugly." he would stretch the word out and taunt me with it "uuuglee" I can still here the tune.
He says he used to make me run around the coffee table. Aversion therapy for the way I said "Daddy" got on his nerves, grated on his ears. So he would tell me to run around the coffee table shouting "Quicker, quicker okay now say Daddy." and he would laugh so hard. I remember the running, and him saying qiuicker, I do not remember the daddy part.
I had eaten the last of the velveeta cheese, and Butch was upset. He went to the convenient store ( it was actually called that "Convenient" was the name of the store) and bought some more. He would slice off pieces and feed them to me, saying "You like cheese don't you Faye Marie?" and I would say "Uh- huh" More aversion therapy. I didn't eat chese for years after that.
Bonnie would try to get him to stop, and he would say "No she likes it." no matter what he was doing to me.
I must add here that I had a lisp, and it would be unfair to the whole family if I did not say, "More peath pleath." (More peas please.) Butch's favorite target at the dinner table was me for that taunt and "seefood" and mashed potato flicking was normally aimed at Joe.
I am not here to complain about my brother, just to illustrate what happens when children cannot understand why their world is so different. In his eyes I must have represented everything he had lost.
I was the baby, he used to be the baby.
His times with our mother's parents. He called them Mama and Papa. I will never forget when he told me "They are my Mama and Papa, they are your Grandma and Grandpa." See he found a different kind of life with them than he ever had with us.
There were many mistakes made by all of us and we remember them, I am just playing out a few short scenes.
Butch used to Recite this every Thanksgiving
Butch was drafted into the army after graduating high school. The Vietnam war was going on at the time and none of us wanted him to go. Bonnie had married and moved out, our dad had cancer. And why would they want him anyway, he was a long hair hippie. Friends gathered round and told him to be a conscientious objector. That was a laugh, we thought he didn't have a conscience in those days. I think he told his friends he couldn't say that because he was an atheist. I think for our parents it was worse than the cancer. There were news clips every day about the war. Nobody wanted to go there.
In spite of memories Butch may have of the differences between how our dad treated him and us, It was very hard on daddy letting Butch go. I remember body language, the way Butch's jaw knotted, the way he clenched and unclenched his hands. The way daddy swallowed hard as they said good-bye. Mom took a picture of Butch in the driveway in his uniform once, I remember that too.
Butch didn't make it to Vietnam. in basic training his knees swelled up and he ended up in the infirmary a lot. It took him a long time to get through basic due to his knees. He went AWOL every chance he got. They thought he was a coward, but you have to understand I am the truth seeker of the family. He would have gotten out anyway. They wouldn't send him with his knees. Butch had never been a coward. He was coming home because of us. His family, the only father he'd ever known. Mom had never been completely well after I was born, she didn't drive. Bonnie had a son and was pregnant with her second child. Joe and I were thirteen and ten. Butch knew he was needed at home more than there.
They gave him an offer of a medical discharge, if he waited out the time for it, later it could be changed to honorable. Or he could take a undesirable discharge and get home quicker. He took the latter, saying "I've got to get home before my dad dies."
He was in the barracks stowing his gear when his CO came in and said "Neville, Pack your gear, You're going home."
Butch turned and said "No Sir, I haven't got my discharge yet, Sir."
"You'll get it in the mail. Your father's dead."
Butch had Joe teach him to Play this on the Guitar
Butch drove us all to West Virginia for the funeral. He was the man of the house now. He had responsibilities now. It did not make him nicer to me at the time. I was ten, and he was a grown man.
Later Butch got married to a wonderful woman named Judy, we all loved so much that at the wedding out came the stories of everything Butch had ever done, to all of us. Many our mother never knew, and we had covered for him at the time. It was not appreciated at all by his new wife. Butch was forced to call us all and apologize or she was having the marriage annulled.
Butch knows he was not nice. He has paid severely for his crimes. But in this court I see many extenuating circumstances, and had forgiven him long before that apology.
He is the reason I am who I am today. I have missed him and thought he didn't want to talk to me after I was forced to be the one to call him when we lost two of our Grandparents, one from each side. Papa Reed, and Grandma Thomas passed away on the same weekend. Joe had to drive there and cell phones weren't common then. My son is fifteen, maybe eighteen years ago now.
We had a long talk then and no words were ever needed after that I thought. I told him I loved him and he said he loved me. In between the years mom kept me filled in on my brother's and sister's lives until she couldn't any more due to illness.
Butch has had many careers in his lifetime. He found when he cut back red meat in his diet he mellowed. The last time we had talked he was a carpenter, ("Like Jesus," our mother said "And he was a Capricorn too ya know") Later he bacame a corrections officer, after his second back surgery. He has been a realtor, and run his own business. He used to swim I know, and took karate. He has gone back to school for classes ever improving himself. He's never stopped learning. He is an inspector now, and the father of two adult children and he tells me he does Karaoke every Friday night.
He has carried the weight of his actions as a child around with him all these years.
Imagine, the man I asked to give me away at my wedding, the one to walk me down the aisle, still carried that weight. I had thought we'd covered that all those years ago on his wedding night, or while mourning our grandparents.
In time we learn that we must forgive ourselves. I had forgiven him a long time ago, 30 years since I got married (The first time). For Butch our disconnection all these years has been painful, because I didn't stay in touch. He naturally thought there must be some reason. I thought he was too busy and knew how I felt. Life is too short to assume your family knows you love them.
Call someone in your family today, and tell them you love them, or drop them a post card from wherever you are or e-mail. Remember the good times and read between the lines. Human beings are the most social of all creatures on earth. That is why we formed tribes, and then villages and now the largest community of all, the Internet.
I love you Butch, and Mom would be so happy. Mama and Papa Reed, and Daddy would have been so proud of the man you've become.
Some of the Stories we told at Butch and Judy's Wedding
(After talking to Butch, telling him I was going to call it my brother the inventor, and having a good laugh I decided to make that change.)
Butch used to steal our toys, break them/melt them down, and make an invention which he would sell back to us for our allowance money. He was inventing things right up until he moved out, and got his own place. (Not out of our toys anymore) Anyway, Joe finally caught on it and said "Hey, that was mine, you broke it." And Butch quickly slipped it behind his back saying, "Uh no it isn't." and went rather quickly back tto his room
He got a candle making kit, after making candles he started on lead. Back then they didn't come with a heater, like today. I don't know how he was melting the lead, but I remember when my mom found out her sauce pan was ruined.
(I carried one of the lead weights he made in my purse all through high school, just in case. They were fabric purses, and that makes a very useful weapon. Thank you Butch.)
He kept a pet Spider, (Florida Banana Spider) in a jar in his room, which he would threaten me with if I said I was gonna tell daddy.
My personal favorite, although he did not fall often, whenever Butch fell he would say "Whoop whoop whoop, before hitting the ground. It occured to us, that if he had enough time to say whoop three times he should be able to catch himself.
Butch took me to see the Wizard of Oz at a friend's house one year, because they had a color set. We did not, so when the next year I did not believe him that the movie would not come in color, we watched it (I won) And he said all through the movie, "When's it gonna come in color, Faye Marie?" I replied, "Any minute now." right up to the end credits. He tried to explain but I was too young to understand.
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