In late summer, just over a year after my wife and I got married, my younger brother surprised me with a wedding invitation. He had been with his girlfriend for some time already and it wasn’t entirely clear to me whether they even wanted to get married. However, here we were and they were planning a country-style wedding, using one of the country-western, vintage, tourist-destination hotels, located in this valley, as their backdrop.
The cost was $10,000, which was a lot of money for a wedding back then but not uncommon either. They had the limo ride out to the valley where this place was – they rented most of the hotel and its grounds for the event, and they brought in a DJ for the dance afterwards. Everyone was invited – her family and ours. It was like a family reunion, seeing all of my aunts and uncles and cousins together again. My parents were beaming and I caught a glimpse of what it might have been like if my wife and I would have done the same thing and had a traditional wedding instead of eloping.
They looked great. He was all dressed up in his tux and she was in a traditional white wedding dress with a long train. This historic hotel had hosted many a wedding, utilizing its scenic backdrop and golf-course as a draw. It was full of stories, including the preservation of gunshot holes in the hotel’s bar. It was something that people would talk about in social circles, perhaps using it as a comparison – a benchmark even.
Yet, only four months would go by when I would hear that my brother’s wedding had fallen apart. They were now separated, and there was much animosity between them. The stories were not clear and there was much speculation abounding. Stories of his unfaithfulness and stories of her unfaithfulness. We weren’t sure whose side to take.
Finally, I was able to get a hold of my brother and have a couple conversations with him about what had happened. I had already heard from his wife, and her story was of his increasing drug and alcohol usage, and inference of unfaithfulness but she was also strangely elusive and withdrawn from me – and everyone for that matter. It was clear that there was something else going on behind the scenes. Although my brother down played his own unfaithfulness and his own drug and alcohol abuse, the story that he did share broke my heart.
He was sure that his wife was being unfaithful. He shared that they had yet to consummate their marriage, citing a painful injury that she had incurred several months earlier during a fall down some stairs. He shared how he was growing suspicious of her and then one evening he arrived home unexpected to find his wife in bed with another person – a female friend of theirs. My brother confronted her with what he thought he saw, and she vehemently denied it, although their friend had already shared a couple of years earlier that she identified as a lesbian.
As he was sharing this story with me I could see and hear the anger, but I could also see a shattering behind his eyes. He was in love with her. That was without a doubt. He moved out when he was sixteen in order to be with her. Yes, like myself, he had grown to despise his family and wanted to get away from that environment, but she was more than his escape plan. Even when he got married he decided to take her last name instead of her taking his. They had been together for a long time and I was somewhat confused to hear that they had never had intercourse.
I wasn’t sure how to care for my brother. He was in a rough place. Not only had his marriage ended, but under the circumstances, all that he had known and poured himself into over the last several years had just blown up. He wasn’t really concerned about the loss of money, spending $10,000 on a wedding for a marriage that only lasted four months seemed to bother me a whole lot more than it bothered him. He found himself in a place that hurt in a way he had never hurt before and I was concerned.
We were never very close and perhaps these brief conversations helped bring us a bit closer into each other’s world. But, truth be told, those conversations also let me know just how far apart we had grown over the years. The reality was that we both were interested in getting away from each other just as much as we were wanting to get away from our parents. We never made any real effort to connect with one another, he was barely known as an uncle in my daughter’s life. It was only now, where he needed someone to believe his story, that he had decided to talk to me about what was going on.
I enjoyed those conversations, as painful as the subject matter was. I felt that at least I was in a different place now and I was looking forward to connecting with my brother once again. Perhaps this set of life circumstances would provide me with the opportunity to spend some more time with him. I was looking forward to talking to him some more.
I didn’t realize that I would only have one more conversation with him.