Brother’s Keeper?

Years ago, I argued with my husband’s CO over dinner.  I wasn’t the hostess with the mostest, but being of a leftist persuasion in those days, I had stong opinions which I shared as the CO and his wife sat across from us at our kitchen table.  At the time, my then husband was a Captain in the U.S.M.C., and the CO was a Major or light Colonel, I forget which.

The subject we were discussing was whether or not one should “take care of others” and I told him point blank….”You are your brother’s keeper.” Now you might think this would ruin my husband’s chances for future promotion, but by then the EX and I were very nearly finished as a married couple. All it apparently did was encourage the commanding officer to ask my EX for my phone number after the EX and I split.  I suppose he thought I was a sparkly little thing, but I never found out because I told the EX to forget it.

Years later, I found myself in a 12-step program for people who become involved through marriage, parenthood or in other ways with alcoholics and/or drug abusers. There I learned about the concept of ‘tough love.’  “If you baby them you bury them,” the saying goes. You must say “no” to the alcohol/drug abuser if you want to help.  I learned this truth the hard way at a meeting one night when a woman shared that her adult daughter was living with them (her parents), although she wouldn’t stop “using.” “How old is she” one of us asked.  Fifty-one was the answer. This shocked me, because up til then I had imagined the daughter was a kid in her 20s.

I was thinking brother’s keepers again this week because my daughter’s step MIL had to put her 21-year old son out of the house.  The MIL has MS or some other disorder that has left her incapacitated and she requires homebound care. Problem is, the various caretakers have been terrified of the son, my SIL’s brother.

The son has a drug and alcohol problem and a room full of guns.  My daughter has been afraid for years that the kid was going off his head (he went to school with her daughters).  Lately the kid has been worse than ever and as MIL Mary’s latest homebound helper quit, the family finally persuaded the county to become involved and get the kid out of the house.

The MIL is now in the care of adult protective services and the local police force is monitoring the situation (you can’t do much until the kid commits a crime). The kid has plenty of money, his dad left him when he died, so he won’t starve, however, he won’t have to grow up and face his problems either.

I don’t think we are accountable for our ancestor’s, siblings or once they become adults, children’ actions.  Jimmy Carter wasn’t brother Billy’s keeper, and Hillary is not her brother’s keeper.  And Jeb Bush is not responsible for his brother’s decisions.  He has no obligation to defend or deny them.  All that matters is what we do in our own lives, or this is a sorry world indeed.

Below Grandson Jacob (yellow) and a friend at games in San Diego County

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19 thoughts on “Brother’s Keeper?

  1. That is quite a tough situation. Hits a little close to home, actually. I can certainly empathize and I hope that Mary will be getting the help she deserves. Meanwhile, I also hope that the son can get help for his problems, too.


  2. As a recovering tobacco addict, I agree that no one else was responsible for my addiction, and I only stopped when I decided to. Yes, addicts need tough love. But, in the broader sense, we should “be our brothers keeper” by providing reasonable help to those who deserve it. My life would be far less pleasant if my wife and I were not willing to do what we can for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.


    • If they have chosen the wrong path, I.e., drug and alcohol abuse, I owe them nothing. The children affected by addiction are a different matter. I have to live with my bad choices, why shouldn’t they? I am paying the price for living with substance abusers…my health has been affected.


  3. Yes, “No,” is a one word sentence.
    Yes too, I feel that there are things I can do to help those who are helping themselves. I’m not responsible, but I still care. We care. We bought school clothes for the youngest G-daughter today. Her mother bought the shoes.


  4. I agree we’re all only really accountable for our own lives, not others’ lives. But still, shouldn’t we try to reach out a helping hand to those we love and those in need? If we think it will do any good, that is.


    • The helping hand most drug addicts and alcoholics need is a swift kick, i.e., intervention. The problem with most do gooders is they don’t accept this. It’s really difficult to put a child you love out, even if the best thing you can do is let them go. They have a Higher Powerand it isn’t you or me.


  5. My hubby used to smoke pot, cigarettes and drink beer excessively to the point of driving drunk. But, being the strong willed woman I am, I was able to change his ways. Where would he be without me? Probably in a morgue.


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