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DECEMBER 8, 2011 10:28AM

John Lennon and My Brother

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John Lennon was not my favorite Beatle. I loved him mostly because he and my brother looked so much alike. 

When my brother was in high school, the Beatles were huge. Being ten years younger than my brother, I learned about the Beatles from him. I sat on the edge of my chair and screamed like a hormonal teenager the night they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. I was too young to have hormones or crushes. But I loved "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and I loved my brother. You look just like him, I squealed. 

My brother told me to shut up, he couldn't hear the music. Soon all the girls in his circle were calling him "John Lennon." My brother was an accidental rock star.

As John Lennon's music and persona changed, so did my brother's. Magical Mystery Tour came out and he invited me into his bedroom, (where I was normally forbidden) to listen to  "I am the Walrus." My brother lay in the dark without a word. I sat on the floor and tried to hear what he heard. It was important to have the right answer if he quizzed me. He did. What do you think it means?  The hell if I knew. I was a kid. I was still listening to The Sound of Music and acting out all the parts in front of the mirror. I think I made something up that might have impressed him or not, and I was dismissed. Get out of my room, Runt.

It was around the time the Beatles followed the Maharishi, that my brother made his first visit to India. He too seemed to be on some spiritual path, except without the kindness and compassion. I worried about my brother constantly. I worried that he took LSD after I learned what "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was about.  By the time John Lennon married Yoko Ono and transformed into someone unrecognizable from the bopping Brit on the Ed Sullivan show, my brother had moved to Nepal. He'd come back every couple of years to visit. He seemed more remote every time.

When John Lennon was killed that December day, I was stunned. I cried for days. My friends and I played nothing but Beatles music for weeks in our apartment. I missed my brother. Somehow they were always intertwined in my mind and heart.

My brother is alive. He still lives in Nepal. The last time I saw him was twenty years after not seeing him. He looked painfully thin, and his hair was grey. I wanted us to connect so badly.

What did you do to your hair?

After twenty years, this was his biggest concern. That I had chopped off my long hair. I knew it wasn't going to be the visit I'd hoped for. We made the trip to the cemetery where our mother is buried. We put the requisite stones on the headstone. He never said a word that day.

We haven't spoken in years. My brother was really nothing like John Lennon. He had the Beatle haircut in the '60's and later the whole drug/India/mind expanding thing going on. Our last interaction years ago was ugly. And like the Lennon song says, I just have to let it go.

I think of him every December 8th. I think of him whenever I hear a Beatle song, really. I made him into something he wasn't, as little sisters naturally do.

I miss who I wish he had been. More like John Lennon, maybe.





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Joan, thanks for this moving story about your brother! While so many of us loved the Beatles and their music, not too many of us actually followed their paths to far away lands. I hope there is a way to connect with your brother on a more positive and frequent basis in the near future!
As John Lennon might have said, you can imagine what you need. So sorry to hear about your estrangement from your brother. Guess all you can do is think about the things from the past that can make you smile.
I'm sorry you and your brother don't connect. I've gone that route with some of my sibs as well and the hurt is always there. But so is the love. It's always there. Even though we're not together, we can always wish them the best in life. That's what sisters are for!~B
First...gorgeous writing.
Second...the memories this brought up for me. I remember that first Ed Sullivan Show and how I sat with my family to watch and ignored my father's snide comments about the ridiculous girls screaming. I didn't want to scream...but at school I did with my girlfriends and collected Beatle cards. Paul was the prize. I decided I liked George best (even though I hated the name). Hmmm...married a George and my brother's name is John...though he didn't like the Beatles at the time. He morphed into Bob Dylan.
As always, your writing flows like a beautiful alphabetic stream, meandering and pausing in the eddies of your memory but always taking us forward.

Your brother misses out on quite a bit not knowing you.
Oh Joan - as always your writing - sublime. I'm in the midst of a rift with my own brother - it is painful - still hoping we can find our way through it - thank you for this
I wish some of my relatives lived in Nepal.
"I miss who I wish he had been." Elegantly stated, and so true of many of loved ones in my life, including my own estranged brother.
Family. Difficult to live with them; difficult to live without them.
Beautiful writing, Joanie. I can feel the hurt in your words, and the longing for your brother. I wish you peace.
I think he thinks of you every day. how could he not?
He is deep into his own life and has no room for others , but one day he will have room. It usually ends up that way. Trust me.
Until then we all love you.
bluestocking babe took the words right out of my mouth. I find myself missing things that never really existed and laugh at myself. BTW, I am older by about a year than a baby boomer, so I missed a lot of the drug culture, but this is the first time I realized what Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds meant! Laughing at myself again.

Stunned. That's all. Stunned. Rated.
Touching post. I wish I was closer to my brother too. We were very close as kids, now we are on and off. R.
I remember being so shocked when John Lennon was killed. "Now the Beatles will never be able to get back together," I thought, like that was the most important thing. I hope one day you and your brother do get back together, because I could hear the sadness and longing in your words.
I'm sorry your brother can't connect very well. I have a sib I wish could be closer, but the Waltons we are not. George was my favorite Beatle too. The soulful one. Like us.
Wow. So beautifully written. There are so many powerful, personal threads here. I'm so sad for your brother. Sounds like he has had a hard life. I don't blame you for wanting to make him into something you could live with, even if it was just in your mind's eye. He was so lucky to have you for a sister, and he didn't even know it.
Makes me wonder if your mother was cold to him, too. He might have handled it differently. This is another of your multi-level perfectly tuned pieces, Joan. It resonates.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. Oh boy.
Joan, oh, this made me so sad. I wish you could connect with him. Is there a way with all the technology now available? Great piece. Also remembering John Lennon.
Joan, this is such an emotional story and I'm sure it was difficult for you to tell.
Your last line says it all. I could say that about many people in my life. Congrats on the EP.
I enjoyed this, but what about a picture?

My brother looks just like Michael Moore, but is quiet and tranquilized.
What to say? I almost never feel I have adequate words to comment with after reading one of your posts...
I can relate to making your older brother into someone he's never quite been, all the while so wishing he was.
I found myself wondering if your brother just didn't know what to say so started with the comment about your hair -- the obvious, superficial change.
How strange. What does he do in Nepal? Sad...
A glimpse into the life of a wonderful writer. You know Joan, my brother is definitely not who I made him out to be either, who I wanted him to be. He lives in his own world and periodically pops up all hearts and flowers in some role he has designed for himself to play at that time. We just don't get to pick our families, we can only try to understand them, love them, or shove them. My world is a pleasant place in many ways, but not a story book either.
Oh yes, I can certainly relate to this one...
Wow, Joan. I got hooked because there's the same age difference between my older sister and me and she also introduced me to the Beatles. A very poignant rendering of your brother. So sad and mysterious when rifts between close relatives don't heal.
Dig this post, Joan. I learn more about you with every one. Yes, some things and people are toxic and we just have to "let it go" off. Too bad the some of the positives of a spiritual quest didn't rub off on your brother. I'll be thinking of you now tomorrow night when I'll be remembering John.

So spill the beans -- which one was your favourite. ;) ... George?
Thank you every one for reading and commenting. As always, I appreciate it.
@Scarlett, it's in my tags, and you guessed it! While all the other girls my age loved Paul, I loved George from the start. (While My Guitar Gently Weeps still blows me away...)
Joan, The one time I don't read the tags ... George was a gem. I figured you for a Georgie girl. John was my fave but now GH and him are on the same plane, if you catch my drift ... ;)

Congratulations on the EP. This is so well deserved.
Touching account Joan. Sometimes you just can't tell what it is that drives someone.
Joan, beautiful and poignant writing as always. So sad and so true about how sometimes in life, we aren't grieving the person we've lost, we're grieving the illusion of who we thought they were. And it sounds like perhaps your brother never quite got over the illusion of who he thought he was or who he was meant to be. R
I wonder what your brother was seeking, and whether he ever found it. This was beautifully written. I think that Lennon did find what he was looking for before his life was cut so short.
I have enjoyed all of the Beatles music, from every phase, but like Lennon's songs the best. It's been well over a decade since I've talked to my brother. I sometimes wish that we could, like we did as children, before all of the stuff got in the way. R
Sometimes I read a phrase such as 'my favorite Beatle' and I just have to laugh out loud.
Brilliant and sad. It's good, though, that you're able to separate the reality from the illusion. Still, I wish your brother had been more like John Lennon, too....
Thanks, Rodney. I often wonder too. I think you are right that John Lennon found what he was looking for...
Thanks for this beautifully told story. I haven't spoken to one of my brothers in over a year. While he's not as far away as your brother, I still miss the connection we used to share through music and art. If reconnecting isn't possible, sometimes it's better to appreciate the good that existed in the past.
Your brother went all the way to Nepal to essentially stay the same. Yet so many people were changed by the Beatles' music and never left home. I wish your brother had been more like John Lennon too, or even Ringo, because at the heart of it, all four of them were (are) decent men who cared about other people and wanted to make a difference in the world. I wonder what keeps him in Nepal.
I wanted to write an appropriately somber comment. Then I read Larry's.

I don't look like a Beatle, though my wife says I sing like Yoko.

By coincidence, I went to a lecture about Sgt Pepper, never thinking about the significance of the date. As the lecturer pointed out, he prefers not to think of today as the day John Lennon died. He prefers to think of it as the 45th anniversary of the day the Beatles recorded the basic tracks for "Strawberry Fields Forever."

As always, saddened by your family divisons and amazed by the clarity of your writing.
when i read 'accidental rock star,' i thought of anne tyler's 'accidental tourist,' and a little bell rang in my head. your writing reminds me of hers - the style is similar and the rhythm. hmmm. that's a very good thing, joanie.

your last two sentences are the essence of summing up. i especially love the first one, "i miss who i wish he had been." i have a brother i don't even wish about, but i think i understand what you meant. :)
Thanks again for reading and commenting.

@Margaret Feike, the first sentence of your comment is profound.

@Candace, have I told you lately that I love you? Oh wait, yes, yes I have...
I romanticized my half brothers the same way, although they were generally kinder to me they lived far away and I could only grasp at little bits of their attention. You describe that feeling so well, and this is do painfully, beautifully evocative. This was, probably, the kind of thing I wanted to know after the last piece.....................
As usual, so much between the lines here in your poetic style. I hope there is time for you two sibs to yet come together; stranger things have happened. In the meanwhile, the metaphor of a lost Lennon is perfect.
I read this yesterday Joan and don't know what to say even today.
But know I did read it...
Lea!!!!!!!!!! I am so happy you came by...
Lovely. That "I miss who I wish he had been" line is just perfect. Distance from sibs is just of modern life I think; people scatter to the four winds now when we grow up. No more of that Aunt and Uncle in the house around the corner for most of us. Letting go is so hard.