Jim: Tribute To A Big Brother – Part 3

Two bro’

Note: The following is Part 3 of a 4 part series written especially for my close family.  It is pretty personal stuff, but, in retrospect, eminently shareable with this readership family

When I had graduated from college, moved to New York City and had some early success in show business, I lived alone, a bachelor.  Every Christmas for 5-6 years I would go spend the holiday season with Jim and his family in St. Louis.  Mom and Dad lived there as well, but it was Jim’s house that I stayed in.  He had three of the sharpest kids I have ever laid eyes on – Cindy, Tina and a little red-headed ball-buster named Travis.  In those years I became the Jim to Travis’s Pete – except that I was about 25 years older than Travis rather than 5.

Jim, Travis, Tina, Pete, Cindy

We had a love/hate relationship that usually ended up with Travis going to his mom crying, but he too just could not turn from the opportunity to try to wallop Unca Pete.  Sometimes he would crawl up on the bed and wake me up with a slug to the nose or the closed eye.  Ouch!  Anyone who has ever raised a 5-year old knows that their punch can really hurt.  Sometimes I would hear him coming and just as he reared back to let one loose, I would wake up and scream “AAAAHHH” and scare him half to death so that he would run crying to Mom.

Those Christmases became the iconic Christmases for me because they were my way of hanging on to my own childhood and playing with those beautiful children that I had fallen so in love with.  Jim and I would stay up till 4 or 5 o’clock every Christmas Eve wrapping presents for the kids and often talking about our own childhood Christmases and the great times we had together as kids.  Whenever we would tell stories of when we were kids to his kids; they would gather around wide-eyed and fully concentrated, excited to hear about when we were like them.  These were their favorite stories and we had to tell them over and over.

Christmas Eve Preparation

For the next 30 years or so, Jim, the accountant, did my taxes for free each year and advised me how to take my proper deductions, organize my business life, steer clear of shady deals and stay on top of my roller coaster financial life in show biz.  One thing you can say about show biz:  It is not financially consistent.  I never had a real consistent  job until Watchfire Music.  I never knew where the next job was coming from, and yet I’m proud to say that I never had to work at any other job besides making music.  That one thing is a success story in itself in this business.  But it is an up and down life – like most entrepreneurs.

Jim advised me and protected me all those years and kept me fairly debt free and not only helped me weather the storms, but also made me save the overage in the days of spectacular sunshine.  As my financial adviser he was definitely my big brother and an absolutely free turn-to guy in the questionable times.  For this I am ever grateful.

Mom, Pete, Jim in Florida

In the last decade or so I have not had to go to him for any of this – once he retired – because he taught me, just as he taught me as a boy how to defend myself, how to think for myself and make good financial decisions.

So he leaves me with no worries.  He leaves me standing on my own two feet.

Nana, Pete, Jim, Mom Christmas Eve in Florida

There was a period in my life where if you turned on the TV in the middle of the afternoon you might catch me on As The World Turns, TV’s soap opera.  Though I do not at all consider this one of my life’s highlights, many others do, including some of my family.  I understand this because there I was on television and famous – sort of …

I was always aware that this proved to be a bit of a struggle for Jim – here was his “famous” little brother making a name for himself in New York while he labored away as an accountant.  Was it a jealousy?  Perhaps.  Naturally I always wanted my big brother’s acceptance as a composer, but for decades he came across to me as totally disinterested in my music.  At first I would send him many of my completed projects and he would never acknowledge them.  This hurt.  At first I did not understand, but as I got older and perhaps a bit wiser I began to understand it as a form of jealousy.

Understanding this made it possible for me NOT to confront him with my successes and, consequently, not send him my music and, in fact, drop out of his life for about a decade.  I was OK with this.  I was uncomfortable with the idea of making him jealous and decided that I would not care if he appreciated my talent or not.  Family matters did bring us back together once again and we had a strong renewal of brotherhood.  But there seemed to be still no interest in my music.  I shrugged it off with the idea from the Bible that a man is not particularly honored in his own country.  This went on for perhaps another decade.  He would know that I was having a successful career by his doing my taxes – we just never talked about it.

One time then he called me to tell me that he was going to come visit me in NY – probably here on business.  It happened at a time when my musical, King Of Hearts was in rehearsal and then opening at The Goodspeed Opera up in Connecticut.  I told him that it would be a very busy time for me, but that he was invited to tag along if he liked and attend some rehearsals and see the opening of the show that was in previews.

I knew I was taking a chance with this ‘uninterested’ brother of mine, but the show was working great, so I was not crazy busy with re-writes and rehearsals and I thought that I might find some extra time to spend with him.

To make a long story short, the experience of visiting rehearsals, meeting the cast, seeing how it was all done and watching the show come together made him feel a part of it all.  He fell in love with the show and went through the same hopes and anticipations of opening night that we all go through in the making of a show.  He became one of us.

When the show received a standing ovation opening night, Jim led it, and when the great reviews came in, I heard him reading one to his wife, Marcia, one night on the phone – bragging about his little brother’s show.  I wept.

The mesmerism of jealousy had been broken for good.  He finally ‘got me’ and that meant such a great deal to me.  We never talked about it, but he did a total 180 when it came to honoring what I wrote and accomplished.  I cannot tell you what this meant to me.  It was as if a lifetime of issues had been resolved.  And it only further solidified our relationship.

I was no longer his little brother.  I was simply his brother.  We had both grown up.

Unca Pete comes to visit Tina and Cindy

See Part 4 for continuation …


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One Response to “Jim: Tribute To A Big Brother – Part 3”

  1. Bonnie Wilson Says:

    This part is so, so sweet. I remember when you came here to see the very small theater troupe in Chesterfield put on “King of Hearts,” and Jim and Marcia were there, and we all really enjoyed it. I’d seen the movie several times but never the musical and it was neat for me to see the songs that I had heard occasionally in their proper context. Am so enjoying your reminiscing, Peter!

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