But as we’d grown up and moved along in life, my brother and I had gone our separate ways ― he, to his managerial career path, motivating accountants to realize their full potential, and I to a bohemian sort of inconclusive drifting. My music became increasingly important to me, as did my freedom. I joined bands, I took temp jobs. I did mini-tours as a rhythm guitarist on weekends in the greater tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, and I only took jobs that let me come and go as I pleased. With every ounce of energy, I resisted going down the permanent 9-to-5 path my brother had chosen. Just as he’d learned from my failures in life ― how not to ride a bicycle backwards down a steep hill, how not to shave your eyebrows ― I had learned from his successes. The things he celebrated as “adult accomplishments” ― the steady job, the promotions, the little plaque on his desk commemorating ten years of loyal service to the company ― made my skin crawl, and I used him as a cautionary example, just as he did me. Each of us did precisely the opposite of what the other pursued, and we both thrived in our own ways. Yes, we drifted far apart as adults, philosophically and geographically, but the bond we’d formed in our youth endured.
And so we’d kept in touch. Through regular phone calls every couple of days, and occasional visits ― not too frequent, but frequent enough to not lose contact. We both still valued our childhood connection, and although we often ended up falling out in a fight over semantics or life priorities, interacting as brother and sister made us both feel young again. Locked in conflict, we both felt as though we were still 15 and 14, with me sitting on my bed behind barricaded door, counting out black beauties and giving Danny the finger as he knelt outside, peering through the keyhole, yelling at me about how I put the “mad” in Metzger! and made the whole family look bad! As we neared 40, we both desperately needed that teenaged feeling to endure.
But constant conflict with Danny got old, after a while. We couldn’t fight all the time. Tonight, it was good to see that my brother, my almost-twin, was in love. Again.
It’s not that Danny didn’t have a good heart. He did. That was the problem. Ever since he started high school at Christian Country School (or CCS, as we called it), he’d always fallen ― and seriously so ― for girls he genuinely thought would be good for him and his faith. Intentionally, he’d always sought out the company of nice girls who were very much like our mother.
It wasn’t so much an Oedipal fixation, as the fact that our mother had patterned her life, her behavior, the whole of her being, after the Christian ideal ― a moral, upright, steadfast woman, acquiescent to her husband and devoted to her kids, yet as fiercely supportive of her man and children as any lioness. Like all her other church sisters, Mom was resolutely loyal to her congregation and her faith, as well as her family, and she’d jump to their defense at a moment’s notice. If Daniel pursued few romantic prospects unlike his mother, it was perceived as a good ― not perverse ― thing by his immediate circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. After all, he couldn’t have done better for himself, than finding a woman who mirrored Mom’s example. When I was much younger and newly independent and still had the nerve to share Sunday dinner with my family, looking around the table from Danny’s date, to Mom, to Regina, our stiffly upright great aunt who often spent time with my folks, it was like looking at a series of reflections in facing mirrors. I had no doubt that Danny’s daughters (if any woman ever settled down with him long enough to beget his offspring) would turn out just so, as well.
It intrigued me now, that Danny was so worked up over this woman, this Jenn-with-two-n’s. His courting style was methodical and well-thought-out, like his approach to scriptural interpretation, and it wasn’t like him to become so excited about a woman, before he’d spent several months with her. In his eagerness to better understand the Christian coupling ideal, he’d read Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip, two Christian marriage guidebooks which a loving faithful father had written to his freshly wed daughter and his new son-in-law. Over the years, my brother had read numerous works ― in print and online ― about Christian courting and Christian unions, starting with the books our parents kept on prominent display on our living room bookshelves. I’d read them, too, in my teen years, but more in the spirit of digging for sexual innuendo, or double-checking the official Christian policy on masturbation. (Word was, you wouldn’t actually go blind or grow hair on your palms, but it wasn’t the most loving thing to do, depriving your committed spouse ― present or future ― of your exclusive sexual expression.) To Danny, as to the whole of our family, marriage was a sacramental pact ― a natural conduit of man and woman’s continuing commitment to faith, through the proper relationship of husband and wife, as well as the Holy-Spirit-led, faith-based raising of children. The order in the home was a reflection of, and support mechanism for, the heavenly order, as God’s headship over the Son, and the Son’s headship over his bride, the church, was carried into the home ― God ― Jesus ― church ― husband ― wife ― children (male children before female, of course). Everyone had their proper place. Danny needed a mate who was as convinced as he, of the merits of that hierarchy.
To be continued…