Christmas is the only day I see my brother Patrick. Every visit is more than enough for the year.
My brother has always had an incredible imagination. When we were young I thought it bordered on genius. Now I’m thinking his imagination might be symptomatic of dementia.
We both seem to suffer from a form of OCD with our individual manifestations.
I have been a chain smoker, a drug/alcohol addict, a career skydiver (which ruined my credit), and a tyrant when it came to my band. I have a tendency to push every pleasant conversation to the point of torture.
My brother’s chemical obsessions leave mine in the dust. His stories turn to fantasies he becomes convinced are reality.
I remember his Christmas visits when I was married. My ex, Kim, was always terrified he’d make a scene in front of her parents and he always did. I’ll never forget the year he was so rude and obnoxious Kim burst into tears yelling, “I don’t ever want him in my house again!”
I was always impressed with her parents’ tolerance. They were pretty uptight otherwise. The image of my 8 year old son, tears welling in his eyes, telling me, “This is the worst Christmas ever!” is permanently burned into memory.
My brother and I share a lot of very dear friends. They’re always asking how he is and why they never see him anymore. Patrick dropped out of society 20 years ago and has no intention of dropping back in.
Our friend Fojammi is in the hospital following surgery. Just before the operation I told him I’d bring Patrick by Christmas day, provided he wasn’t already too drunk.
Danny wasn’t feeling well so our visit was short. Coming down on the elevator, my son pointed out there was no 12th or 13th floor button. I assumed these were floors that normal folks weren’t supposed to have access to.
The elevator was crowded, so I guess Patrick felt compelled to put on a show.
He gave us all a lecture about the government putting the 13th floor in the basement and running their secret conspiracies from there. This was happening in large buildings all over the world. It was the wildest “Beware of the big bad government” story I’d ever heard. Every jaw in the elevator had dropped by the time we exited.
From there Valerie, my kids, my mom, my brother and I met up at our apartment to share Christmas.
Valerie only smokes in our kitchen. I guess my brother figured it was the designated smoking area. He said he wanted to hang there for a smoke and asked if he could have a beer. I had just gotten a Christmas six pack from my ex’s boyfriend. I popped off a crown cap with my church key and handed him one.
I left the room to visit every one else around the tree. I came back after what seemed the time it took to smoke one cigarette. All six bottles were empty in the trash can. I never really saw him drink, but in the few hours he spent with us he drank three six packs and half a bottle of whiskey.
After 4 beers I wake up with a hangover. I can’t imagine what his mornings are like.
My son loves his uncle Patrick. He’s always wondered why I’ve always been so apprehensive about my brother’s Christmas visits. This year Dylan admitted Patrick was more fun to talk to the more sober he was.
In spite of that Dylan had a wonderful time. One of his gifts was a bottleneck slide. I taught him to tune my guitar to open G and almost immediately he figured out Leadbelly’s Black Girl. He played and Patrick belted out the lyrics. Dylan talked about it all night after everyone left. “How did Uncle Patrick know all the words?”
He’d be surprised to find out how much Uncle Patrick knows.
I have the most beautifully dysfunctional family. My mother has always been curt with her opinions and not at all sentimental about ritual. My brother is just out of his mind and the tension between the three of us drives most people to despair.
Somehow Valerie embraces the whole situation. Every Christmas is a zoo and my son sees it all as family tradition. I’m not sure about my daughter Chloe but at the end of the night she smiled and very quietly said, “This is the best Christmas ever!”
The kids and I were camping so Valerie went to see George Clinton at Vintage Vinyl to represent. She took this pic of Patrick and his long time girlfriend Gwen.
Patrick and me a couple of years ago at Christmas.
Group photo of us with my mom’s mom, brother and family. This was a family reunion in Hardy Arkansas late 70s or early 80s.
70s pic taken by Matt O’Shea with our beloved Cokes.
Soulard pic of us just before we moved away from home.
The second to last one shows my brother with an eye patch. He had to wear those for a while. He was a pirate even back then.