Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Writing Bernie into the Script

You've had a great deal of time to think about Bernie, which you have done in many ways and under the most extreme of existential circumstances.  There is every reason to believe you owe your life to Bernie, to believe you would not be here now, writing these words, were it not for Bernie.

In some gesture of cosmic respect, you call him Bernie, a diminutive more affectionate than not for Bernard, whose middle name was Marvin.  Sometimes you catch yourself wondering how long it would have taken you to learn to call him by his initials, B.M., which you;d have made sure everyone about him would understand was a profound tease for bowel movement.  

Having been spared the reality of having a big brother, you spent time with the dynamic of calling him B.M., his losing his patience with telling you not to call him that, then leaving some sore spot somewhere on your body, half affectionate but half considered the necessary evil of keeping a kid brother in place.

You never got into such contests with your older sister, whom you adored, the one notable run-in coming about half way into her marriage with a man you grew to dislike at first, then disrespect, then move back to the point of being indifferent to him.  You may well have reached a similar point with Bernie.

Keeping in mind the constant of your parents having a knowledgeable grip on the subject of birth control, you can also conclude how unlikely you'd be here on this late day in September if Bernie had lived.  He'd have been enough.  A boy and a girl.  Bernie and Pennee.

Without giving it much thought, if any at all, Bernie gave you a shot at being the second kid.  He did it because of his death of SIDS at the approximate age of six months.  Sometime later, you seemed like a good idea.  Later still, after all the principals are out of the picture, here you are.

Try as you might, you can't write the matter of who you are and how you go about being you without any added thought.  At the extreme least, Bernie's sudden death made your mother more watchful, protective, and cautious with your upbringing that she might otherwise have been.  

With Bernie in the picture, your response to him may have been near what it has been to CW, your way of looking at Conventional Wisdom.  In any case, your lifelong relationship to CW has been in many ways that of a younger brother, at once contentious, a tad fearful, combative, envious if not outright jealous, and not to be forgetful of familial love. 

You want a name like BM to call CW, which is the same as saying you intend to irk it, get under its skin, play pranks on it, and, after you began to devise ways to do so, write stories in which CW or something that represents CW to you, is left taking a pratfall.

Try as you might, you cannot become the complete anarchist, not when there are things about conventional wisdom you admire.  So you watch with care, hopeful of discovering places where you might poke fun, focus burning rays of ridicule and satire.

The way you see it, Bernie would have been focused and successful, his college career not as much a gallimaufry as yours, the likelihood great of his terminal degree being a PhD. or LLD or perhaps an M.D.  And you?  You would not have become the kind of failure you strive to be, rather a failure who stopped trying, stopped taking the kinds of risks you take, all in service of being fearful of abandoning CW.

You have taken the money and run, which is to say you've begun picking on and teasing at CW as though it were your older brother.  You have one story underway in which one brother has deliberately bought into a retirement home environment in order to be on the same campus, once again, as his older brother. Even in your imaginative dreams, this is not going to be a well-negotiated reconciliation.

How many stories await in which the Bernie you never knew in your lifetime has become your lifelong big brother, with you stuck, wearing his hand-me-downs?  And how much more thanks will you come to recognize you owe Bernie these days?

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