A funny kind of love

His invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving pulls me up short. I read it again, then once more, then squint at it and read it aloud. “We would love to have anyone—everyone!” It’s from my one-year-younger brother. He posts it to the private Facebook group for members of our extended family.
But he doesn’t mean it, not the way it sounds. Anyone, everyone? He can’t mean it that way. He’s inviting my husband Dave and me to Thanksgiving dinner?
It’s been years since Judas (not his real name) and I spoke to each other. He leaves my occasional letters unanswered. Except for funerals, he boycotts family events to which I am invited. Not that there are many. I’m the black sheep of our family. The rest of the flock is afraid I shed. They don’t want dark ringlets of wool all over the davenport. They take their cues from our Bible-thumping brother. He preaches in the type of church we five siblings were raised in—one that excludes gay people from fellowship.
His invitation reads like the title of a children’s sermon: “Thumper Invites Black Sheep for Thanksgiving Dinner.” Has he lost his mind? Or has he changed it?
I’m guilty of pickling in formaldehyde people I haven’t seen for years. I expect high school friends to look just the way they did when last I left them, and to hold the same opinions and beliefs. I expect my favorite college professor to appear in a wrinkled green suit with a narrow black tie, rap his knuckles on the table as he talks to me. I’m surprised almost every time I reconnect. People have moved on in my absence, grown more wrinkled, wiser and dear.
What if Judas did have a change of heart, does indeed mean to invite me for Thanksgiving? Ooh, that will upset my applecart. I’ve convinced myself I am the bigger (and better) person because I reach out to him from time to time, am willing to overlook his offenses. But it’s easy to be noble in a party of one. Maybe he’s calling my bluff.
I could ask him if “anyone—everyone” includes me. Sure, I could. But do I want to? He testified against me at my child custody and divorce hearing. Do I want to open myself to outright rejection again? And what if he says “Yes, come on over.” Do I want to sit down to table with him?Nov-0W-3-bw-vignette
But maybe we could build bridges, set an example for the wider family, recapture some of what we had as kids—those long talks when we were supposed to be asleep, when we were marooned in the wild cherry tree, closeted in the clubhouse in the garage’s rafters.
I email him privately, keep my tone neutral, my words few: “May Dave and I join you for Thanksgiving Day?” I leave it at that.
So does he.
A month passes. His silence rankles. What do I want? Not for him to change. There will be no miracles here. I want common courtesy, the decency of a reply.
My follow-up email elicits a direct response, a first in over 15 years. For this alone I am grateful. Judas writes to inform me that no, I am not welcome in his home; the invitation was not family-wide. He’s doing what he believes God wants from him. He’s sure I am doing what I feel is best. He signs off by twice saying he loves me.
A funny kind of love, this, wrapped in religion and dubious convictions.
But some of my own convictions are suspect: Chickens are the most intelligent life form on the planet; Horseradish is the secret to the good life; When in doubt, sing.
So my brother says he loves me. Well, well. I happen to think love is our only hope. I’d like to believe it is enough.

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