Thursday, 14 August 2014


A week ago I opened up one of Kate's cards and it asked the question "What was it like growing up with your brothers?" It's been a bit of a tough week and though I had an answer almost immediately, today is the first day where my life has given me room to respond. Growing up with my brothers was actually three different lives, so different as to seem completely disconnected with one another. The first life was early childhood, from 1955 to 1963. The second life was East Vancouver from 1963 to 1967. The third life was out in Stave Falls from 1967 to 1970. There is a denouement from 1970 to 1972 but little is explained; it's just the tag end of childhood.

The early period of my life, from birth to 8 years old, is almost a complete blank for me. My only memories, those that are mine and not triggered by others, are of being stung by bees while trying to climb the big rock across the road from my house, and of coming down the hill to the Esquimalt Spit. Oddly enough, there are a number of years separating these two memories with absolutely nothing to link them. Both were dramatic, one was traumatic, neither offers any linkage to brothers. In other words, in those years, I don't actually remember growing up with brothers. Perhaps the only memory I have is of my brother Adam and I sitting down to watch "Brakeman Bill" and "J.P. Patches" on our black and white TV; I'm not sure if I remembered this or someone told me.

The next period of my childhood, from 1963 to 1967, are what I think of as the halcyon years; these were the years where my brothers and I were truly a family, a band of boys living an active, vibrant life in East Vancouver in those dramatic years of social change. Almost everything I remember from those years is linked to brothers; my older brother Adam and I going on the bus to Stanley Park to go fishing, playing on bikes with any one or all of my brothers be it Peter, Jim, Matthew or Adam. I remember going to visit my grandparents who also lived in East Vancouver, even walking there on my own at times. It was perhaps the happiest time in my life, the most contented I have ever been and will likely ever be. If I could go back to a time and place, it would be there and then.

Then came the dark years, the difficult years as my father and step-mother tried to blend two already seriously damaged families into one, to serve no purpose other than my father's ego. In the summer of 1967 all my brothers decided to go live with my Dad in Stave Falls. I held out, but my Dad finally connived me into going during Christmas of 1967. I still view that event as my ultimate betrayal of my Mom, leaving her alone not just at Christmas, but for the next three years.

Life in Stave Falls was not just life with brothers; it was life with step-sisters, my step-brother and my baby half-sister. It was a life of conflict, where my father pitted us against one another, creating competition and confrontation between brothers, especially between Adam and I. It was a time and place rife with difficulty, stoked by the fires of a house full of pubescent young boys and girls all demanding the attention of their respective parent. My father did not give attention; he demanded it. My step-mother struggled with a houseful of rowdy children, seven of hers and five of his, all wanting to be fed, clothed, cared for, and mostly loved.

Ultimately we all left Stave Falls but the damage had been done. We went back to my Mom, one by one, some for a year or two, others for longer. Our lives were very different given the age differences that now played such an important part in our family development. We were no longer brothers; we were competitors. During those years in Stave Falls the patterns of behaviour were formed which are still with us today.

In looking back, I wish we could have retained the relationships we had in the middle years, those founded on being brothers, being a team, playing with and ultimately looking after one another. Those are the brothers I remember growing up with, laughing with, living with. Those are the brothers I miss. They are still there, hidden under the cover of damage wrought by the difficult years. They are still there, some more and some less. Yet they are gone too, like shadows in the mist of falling night. Would that we could return.

1 comment:

  1. I too wish you could all get out of the competition mode. i love you all.