I Have a Brother I’m Very Proud of…

Stylin' circa ummm...probably 1967.

He’s on the right there, in his stylish suit.  I’m on the left, and our sister, Kim, is in the center.

His name is Robert, which is what our mother calls him now.  But in his youth he was Bobby, and even today I can’t really bring my mouth to wrap around the word “Robert” when I speak with him or of him.  To me, he’ll always be Bobby…even though he’s 48 years old now.

When he was a youth–when it was just the three of us kids together, me, him and our sister Kim–he was…let’s be delicate about this shall we?…a shit.  Or rather a shit disturber.  He was the proverbial middle child…willful, sullen, bothersome, always doing something (usually negative) to bother someone.  We shared a room for a while, a horrible Odd Couple experiment that my parent’s wisely ended when they remodeled the basement and put their bedroom down there in the first house we grew up in.  He was a neat freak, I was a slob.  Probably should have known even then, but who thought of such things?

Growing up, we weren’t estranged or anything, it’s just that we were both very, very different, with completely separate interests and groups of friends.  I paid little to no attention to the person he was becoming or what he was doing.  Hey, it happens. He spent most of his free money on clothes.  I spent most of my free money on books and music.  Probably should have known even then.

I grew up, he grew up.  He moved to California nearly three decades ago with a friend and never looked back.  He was, of all the people I know, born to live there.  Tall, thin, handsome, stylish, he was made to be there.

Our lives went on.  I got married, had kids.  He and a friend moved in together.  Into a one bedroom place in Long Beach.  Questions were raised in the family, silently.  My sister Kim and I, though, had finally put two and two together.  But why wouldn’t he say anything?  He had to have known that his family would be supportive.

Well, during a trip to California several years ago, Kim finally brought it up, point blank, and Bobby quietly said, “Yes, I’m gay.” I often stop to think of the years he’d gone through feeling as if he couldn’t say anything to his own family.  How horrible to have to live like that, how horrible that this society–this often stupid, weirdly religious, weirdly conservative society–exacts such a terrible toll from some of its best members.

But he “came out,” I guess you’d say, and his family met him with open arms.  I’m really proud of my parents and how they reacted during this period, especially my dad–an ex-marine, ex-cop tough guy who easily could have gone the other way.  But didn’t.  Bobby was his son, just as much as me, and just as much entitled to love and be loved as anyone.


That’s me on the left, recently, one of my bestest friends, Chris, then Bobby, then Bill on the right.

So, we fast forward.  California allows same-sex marriage, yanks it from the books, then last week the Supreme Court decides, in not necessarily the bravest or forward thinking of ways, but decides nonetheless that, perhaps, DOMA was a bad idea.  Perhaps we shouldn’t discriminate against an entire class of people.  Perhaps we should learn from the mistakes of discrimination in the past.  Duh.

Bobby and his partner, Bill, at 24 years together, now have the longest relationship in our family, save for my parents, who just celebrated their 50th anniversary.  My marriage ended years ago…thank god.  Kim has been married, I think, 20 years now.  My sister Heather is awaiting a proposal.  And my baby sister, Bri, just got married last fall.  She’ll be 24 this year.  I’ll be 50.  Same parents.  Yeah, freaky.

This past week, Bobby and Bill got their wedding license in West Hollywood, California.  This week, they will get married, just like I and my sisters and parents did.  He will now be able formalize his relationship, which may not seem like anything to some, but it is something.  Something very big.  Especially when your country has denied this to you.

I am very, very proud of my brother and Bill.  I am happy for them, happy that their relationship has lasted this long, happy that they can stand up now in society and affirm that relationship before God and everyone.

And though this isn’t a political rant or a religious rant, let me say one thing.   I believe that probably the two most important documents written by man over the last 2,000 years are The Bible and the Constitution of the United States.  One was written to affirm love.  The other to affirm freedom.  I don’t believe in the mythology of the first one, though I can get behind the message. However, I take the second one very seriously.  And when people, for whatever reason, use either of these documents to deny love or freedom to a group of people, for whatever reason, you have lost me.  You haven’t just lost me as an adherent to your particular philosopy.  That’s a given.  You have also lost my respect for your particular philosophy.  Period.

So, my brother, Bobby, will get married next week.  He will give me another brother-in-law, and that’s great.  And the world will go on spinning, let me assure you.  But I think it will go on spinning a little better, a little truer because of that.

Congrats Bobby and Bill!  I am proud of you and happy for you!  I will give you a sister-in-law soon.  Promise!


About John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff is a writer, published author, raconteur and wrangler of angry stoats. He has more than 80 short stories and 7 novels published. He lives in the great, unspoiled vastness of the Midwest. He has a tremendous wife named Debbie, three pugs, Sadie, Tovah and Muriel, and three great kids--Harry, Sam and Molly. View all posts by John F.D. Taff

9 responses to “I Have a Brother I’m Very Proud of…

  • Alicia B

    Congrats to Bobby and Bill! I hope they have a beautiful wedding day this coming week.

  • John F.D. Taff

    Thanks, Alicia. Hopefully he’s reading this…

  • Kim

    Bob & Bill have been friends of mine (and my mom’s) for many years. What a beautiful tribute …

  • John F.D. Taff

    Thanks, Kim. I appreciate it. It was from the heart. I’m glad to see this outpouring of love and well wishes for both Bob and Bill. Glad they’ve got some great friends like you!

  • Kathy Taff

    John this is truly amazing.What a ringing tribute to your brother and Bill!

  • John F.D. Taff

    Thanks, Mom. So you actually found my blog, huh?

  • Janet Cobler

    John that was incredible what you wrote and was admirable in support of your brother, Bobby,who I agree, was a “shit”. What you wrote brought tears to my eyes, you are a wonderful brother. “Bobby” was my favorite kid to see when I visited your family’s home. You were always watching channel 9 or 11, whichever one was educational, and “Bobby” was down in the kitchen pick n on me. I join you, your family and others in the celebration of “Robert and Bill’s marriage, this week, next week, or whenever….

  • Robert Taff

    Thanks Janet, from us too. I know now, and take great pride in, how terrible I was as a child! I added the excitement to our childhood! LOL! We truly appreciate the support we’ve received from family and friends. Its more that we could have ever hoped for! Bob

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