I am trying to write about my brother, Wayne. I'm having trouble, though. For all of my growing up, my brother and I didn't like each other. We fought constantly. Sometimes physically*. I'm pretty sure it stemmed from jealousy - I was jealous of him, always saw him as my mother's favourite. After my father died I didn't feel I was anyone's favourite, although my sister assures me I was the *most* spoiled child of my generation. It's all about perception I guess.
So, my brother and I fought. All the time. I have no memory of us interacting** and not fighting. I have no idea how my mother stood it - sending us to boarding school might've helped but I remember how much my brother hated it there and wanted to come home. He was at a boys-only Catholic boarding school, and looking back it's horrifying to think what went on there that made him *so* miserable. Might explain why he's not too keen on a family who made him stay there for years.
There are lots of theories and supposings about why my brother is the way he is, but none of us know because I don't believe anyone's actually asked *him*. Partly that's his doing - he's very hard to find, and we're not a family who talks about "stuff". I think the closest anyone got was my Aunt phoning him last year and saying something like "we don't care if you're gay, or a druggie" to which he chuckled and said "maybe all of the above".
After he left school, he worked as a Fitter/Welder in New Plymouth - steal-capped boots and swarfegga'd hands - just like his dad. After he squirreled enough money away and did a bit of travelling before he went on his big OE to Europe and England. The infrequent letters/photographs were the only clue he was still alive until one day he came home to New Zealand. He went to Wellington and did a chef's course and then became one. He's really very good. Working his butt off with rarely fewer than two jobs he settled into his life in Wellington with a routine that saw him with very few possessions but many, many friends.
I visited him a few times and we actually got on really well. I told him about some of the things I'd done and he decided I was okay. He told me about some of the things he'd done and I realised how little I actually knew about him. But in our typical Park way, we never talked about anything *important* just a lot of shite and beer and laughing. We spent some time with the Park side of the family one New Years, and it was wonderful to see him so relaxed and happy to be there. He gets on well with the cousins and they adore him and all say "he's such a Park", and "he's just like his father". It was good. He was good. But then suddenly he'd had enough and said "Shelley, lets go" so we did. We drove up to Auckland and he stayed the weekend before going back to Wellington on the train. Plenty of opportunity to talk about all sorts but mostly we listened to the cricket and didn't say much at all. I realised then that all those years of fighting had nothing to do with him, or me, but something else. That after a whole childhood of battling each other, we are in fact alike in many ways. That drive from the Bay of Plenty back to Auckland made me realise that I love my brother - and I'd never realised that before. He's a good and talented man.
It was good, but it was too late - not long after that he decided to shuck New Zealand for Australia [still don't know why [again, didn't ask] and move to Melbourne. and now there's no time to talk, even if I knew what to say.
He flew out from Auckland, driving up with friends from Wellington to say goodbye first to family in Taranaki, then to spend a tequila-filled weekend in the City of Sails and say goodbye to the rest of us. I haven't heard from him since, but then again, I haven't tried to contact him. I managed to lose his email address and he's not a computer person anyway so doesn't have any sort of internet footprint.
My young cousin Janine Park took my challenge to find him in Melbourne last year and did so with relative ease working in a cafe/restaurant called the Greasey Joes in St Kilda. They got on like a house on fire - but then he has always been more at ease with the Park side of the family and loved seeing her again. She recognised him instantly because, well, he's a Park!
But he remains elusive. He'll talk to family if they call him, he'll have a beer/coffee with them if they visit. But he never initiates contact with his us here in New Zealand. He is a good man, and has many friends who speak highly of him, and tell stories of him that surprise his family which reinforces the fact we don't know him at all well, and for whatever reasons he doesn't share himself with us to any real degree.
We love him - well, I won't assume - I still love him and sometimes I miss that he's not a little bit closer because I'd quite like to have a meal with him occasionally.
Happy Birthday, Wayne.
*I remember the last "actual" fight we had. It was over the stereo. I had moved it into my bedroom, not even thinking of anyone else. It was the only record player in the house and I'd just taken it and set it up in my room. Of course, Wayne didn't think that was fair [and he was completely right] and wanted the stereo back in the lounge so he could use it. The fight went from yelling to him trying to drag the stereo back out of my room and the two of us grappling each other. Usually, I could beat him, between my verbal abuse and age I was always a bit stronger/heavier - but somewhere between last time and this time he got so much stronger. He would have been 16 to my 17 and before long all I could do way lie on him and hold his wrists and that's all I could do, my bodyweight pinning him and we were at a stalemate, both gasping for breath. There was a moment of stillness, then he HEADBUTTED ME! I couldn't believe it. He smacked his brow into mine with such force I let him go and stood up to feel my head and he made his get-away. While I was rubbing the rapidly growing bump and realising my nose was bleeding I heard my mother yell from in the kitchen "SHELLEY, STOP PICKING ON YOUR BROTHER!"
**I actually have a memory of feeling protective of my brother when we were late to school once [i think we were late to school a lot, actually.. my reports from that time always had "punctuality?"] - we went to a school that threatened to strap children for doing things like walking on the grass and being late to assembly. Every morning the school would line up in classes and we'd hear the notices or rules or whatever, then we'd march back to our classes to "76 Trombones" and begin our day. Wayne was only tiny, maybe 5 or 6 and tearful at being so late. I was worried too, but managed to keep the tears at bay and shush him a bit quieter so only his big fat tears slide down his face with his soundless sobs. I managed to sneak him into his line as it marched back to class and then get into mine without getting into trouble. See? maybe I was a good sister once and a while.