My first official boyfriend was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. He was seven years younger than I was, tall and handsome in a quirky sort of way and very much smart as the dickens. His baby brother, six years younger than the boyfriend, was an undergrad at Georgia Tech, also tall and handsome and smart as the dickens. The year we were together the BF came over from Columbia and we celebrated Thanksgiving in Atlanta with the baby brother.
It was quite enlightening. My brothers and I are so close together in age (at one point my mother had three little boys under the age of three) that our sibling rivalry was intense in the extreme and our father's alcoholism didn't help matters. As is the case in many families like ours, we were all assigned roles, regardless of whether they were wanted or fit, with the inevitable conflicts.
The BF and his brother were also sons of an alcoholic father but they were six years apart in age so they didn't have the sibling rivalry. In fact, as far as I could tell, they were each other's best supporter and cheerleader. They were clearly, cheerfully smitten with each other.
And the four days I spent with them (and occasionally the baby brother's girlfriend) they never, ever touched each other. No hugs, no pats on the back, no arms around the shoulder, no tousling of the hair, nada.
Finally, on the last day it was time for the boyfriend to go home and the four of us (me, the BF, the baby brother, the GF) were all standing in the parking lot of a pizza joint, about to go our separate ways.
The BF and his brother stood about six feet apart, arms crossed, smiling at each other, and talked and talked, clearly not knowing how to say "goodbye" to each other.
Finally, I couldn't take it any more.
"I had a GREAT weekend I announced," then...
I hugged the BF.
I hugged the baby brother's GF.
I hugged the baby brother.
It was like light bulbs went on over their heads. The BF hugged the baby brother's GF and THEN, finally, at long last, the BF hugged his beloved baby brother.
The GF just looked at me while they were doing so, and nodded. She knew what I had done.
I'm fairly certain that was the first time in their lives they had actually ever hugged. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't the last.
And, even though he had been dead four years, long before I came out, really that was my father's doing.
For all his faults, he was never shy about being physically affectionate with his sons. We received hugs and kisses and petting and tousling and rough-housing to the Nth degree.
As far as I can tell that was true of my dad's upbringing as well. When my paternal grandfather came to visit, he greeted his sons and grandsons with a hug and a kiss on the lips! Same with my father's brother.
And I had never really thought anything of it until I met the BF and the baby brother. It was only when I was standing there staring at them, six feet apart and arms crossed, that I finally realized my dad had given me a gift that isn't given to most American men.
So, thanks Daddy-o,
Here's to :: Hugs ::and Fathers who know how.