Respect is earned
Not given through fear
Respect is earned
Without swinging a fist
Respect is earned
Yet hatred is so unclear
Respect M.S. 1992
The realisation that Herod and I were being treated differently didn’t come easy, to me or Herod.
When I first started to work it out for myself I resented Herod, I resented him for not being at the end of our father’s fist even a few times when I was there, I resented him for not being forced to read verses from the bible on an almost daily basis and I resented him because father never spoke to him the same way he spoke to me.
However, sometime after those feelings of resentment began to fester in my mind I realised something else, something that sat with me worse than the resentment. That particular realisation was that Herod was not to blame for the differences as they were dealt, in fact it was Herod who snapped me out of the cloud I was under.
“What’s been eating you lately, Reggie?” Herod asked on the day of our eleventh birthday as we walked home from our first day of school for the year 1981.
“Nuthin’!” I responded in short, really not wanting to talk about what my mind had discovered since finding our mother’s diary.
Herod however was having nothing to do with it my silence, he wanted answers and he was prepared to do whatever it took to get them out of me.
I guess it could sound strange to some but despite Herod only being my senior by several minutes I did look up to him a fair bit. I was not slouch at school, I got relatively good grades, better than Herod in some classes, but it wasn’t until I realised just how much that resentment was effecting me I began to also realise how much I did respect him. I may have forgotten that respect a little bit after reading our mother’s diary but I didn’t loose it. I guess that is part of the reason why when he asked me to sit down on the bluestone fence, still four kilometres from home, I sat down.
I sat down with no intention of talking, my resentment was so much, but Herod pushed, gently and with only words, and after about ten minutes I finally gave in and sprouted nearly everything. By the time I had finished my story I had tears in my eyes and each word fell out of my mouth as if I had no control. My body was also shaking, almost as if I was shivering from the cold, yet it was a day of thirty two degrees and one of the few days of that summer I could wear shorts without showing off the bruises of an angry father.
Herod knew the longer we sat on the low bluestone wall the more we risked the wrath of my father if he happened to arrive home before we did. As it was our daily walk home took us the best part of an hour, if we were late our or mucked around too much that hour could easily push out to an hour and a half as well as pushing us ever so much closer to the five thirty closing time our father observed.
Despite the threat of Dad being home first Herod did not rest, he insisted I talk and tell him everything and I am forever glad he did, for had he not taken that time I could have gone on resenting him for much, much too long.
Like I said the respect I had for my minutes only elder brother might seem strange, even unwarranted to some people, but like many things family related it’s difficult to explain. But it was that respect that allowed me to eventually talk and it was that respect that much more importantly allowed me to listen to Herod’s words.
He didn’t once defend himself, our mother, or our father, he did however point out to me that any special treatment he received was not because of something he did. He also pointed out a number of times his behaviour mirrored mine at a time I was being punished, yet our father chose not to punish him in the same manner.
His conversation painted a similar picture to the one I painted for myself only his was not as black and white as mine. I could so easily have chosen not to believe Herod’s story, after all I had our mother’s diary, I had the truth(?), and when I thought about it I even had our mother pointing out in that diary from our earliest days that the unfair punishment was not Herod’s fault. So why did I suddenly start believing it was?
Sitting on that wall I broke into tears once again. “I don’t know why I thought that!” I was almost blubbering. “Honestly I don’t.” I then went into apology mode and started apologising profusely, through tears, just trying to make my brother understand what I didn’t fully understand myself.
“Reggie. You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.” Herod said
He then put his arm around my shoulders and spoke for nearly twenty minutes. There was no raised voice and no anger but there was plenty of compassion. He told me how many times he’d tried to take the responsibility for his actions, even for my actions, and how many times our father had told him keep quite, how many times he’d been told to leave the room when punishment was being delivered and how many times he tired to stop our father to stop only to have his requests ignored.
His words spoke along similar lines to much of our mother’s diary, which he didn’t know I had, and when he told me he’d tried more times to stop our father dishing out punishment than our mother had and I had no reason to not believe him.
I might have had respect for my brother before the resentment set in but it was nothing like the respect I had for him from that day forward.