Saturday, October 22, 2011

my way of thinking: Phil

In case there was any doubt, the handsome young men in the photo are my younger brother, Phil and myself. We were 4 and 2 on the left and 3 and 1 on the right. This is the only picture of my brother I have left. In 1997 Hurricane Georges hit Key West and Jon and I lost a lot of stuff. But we had each other. We survived and came back to California. I'll take an earthquake over a Hurricane any day. I grew up with earthquakes so they don't frighten me much.

I want to tell you about my brother. Phil was a miracle baby. In 1956 when I was just 16 months old, my pregnant mother, my father, and I were in a terrible car accident. My mom was thrown from the car and fractured several vertebrae. My father fractured his back as well. And I was thrown into the back seat with only a bump on the head. No infant car seats in those days. The doctors didn't see how the fetus could survive such trauma but the docs didn't know my mom. They didn't know Phil either.

Phil was a delightful child. While I was always focused and intense, Phil was happy-go-lucky and mischievous. If he could take something apart, that's what he was compelled to do. Trouble was, he hadn't figured out how to put things back together. He was always in trouble. I used to feel so sorry for him but I was more than happy to have the spotlight on him rather than me. No matter what, Phil was loved by every person with whom he came in contact. He was my polar opposite.

Phil and I had things in common but, where I was passionate he was mostly just trying to keep up. He was too interested in playing with his matchbox car collection than to do things like take piano lessons etc. I loved dogs and horses. Phil liked them because I did. He was always a step behind and that began to manifest itself into an inferiority complex when he began Jr. High.

Phil had lots of friends. Like I said, everyone loved him. But at age 12, Phil began to separate from his nice friends and started hanging out with the bad boy crowd. He began running away from home and his grades went from straight A's to C's and D's. Phil was a genius you see and school couldn't keep up with him. At this same time he began experimenting with drugs. Our family was constantly in turmoil over Phil. My mother was ill. My dad travelled a lot on business. And then there was me. Barely a teenager myself, but I had a very well developed sense of responsibility and loyalty. By God, I was going to make everything alright for everyone. I could get good grades. I could still be in singing groups after school. I could cook dinner and do laundry. I could be superboy and, to an extent, I was. But I couldn't change Phil. I loved him, but for the first time in my young life, love just wasn't enough.

By High School, Phil's life had completely unraveled. He was constantly being suspended. He considered that vacation time. He could not be controlled by anyone. My parents were talking military school. I was incredibly busy with music and theatre. I had to try to stay out of it as much as possible. Staying out of it would become impossible very soon.

I just realized that I am going to have to make this a two parter. In order to do justice to Phil's story, I want to be complete. There will be a point that goes along with my general theme. I promise.

                                         Peace and Love,




  1. Bill, You've been taking care of people for a long time. You are such a good-hearted person, Bill and the love you have for your brother is eveident. I am really looking forward to Part 2. P.S.: It sounds like you sure were superboy! :-)

    caregiving. family. advocacy.

  2. I still am superboy, Trish. Being a natural born caregiver is the biggest thing we have in common. You are still supergirl yourself.

    Stay tuned for part 2. There may even have to be a part 3. As Phil got older, the issues became more and more complex. Hard to write about in the sense that I want to explain as fully as I can.

  3. So sad how a life can take a turn like this. From happy go lucky to drop out. But then I remember my own teens.....

  4. I've had experience watching kids take wrong turns and go into a life that just wasn't the right one for them. Probably there was a time in my life when I thought, "If families did things right, kids would be o.k." - that was before I was a step-parent and had enough experience through others to realize how much cannot be controlled or even explained.

    I'm fully engrossed in this story, so will move on to part 2 now. I am truly hoping for a happy ending for Paul (and you as the caring, sweet brother you obviously have been).

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing