When I was ten I wrote a song for my younger bother that went thus: “Wrong, John, wrong.” That was it. I was two years older than he, and so I knew. Either my brother was a masochist or I wasn’t as horrible as this song suggests, because we remain close to this day, though we have lived in different cities for the last twenty years. It was during that first year in different cities that I got a call from him. “Bill, I met this girl. She’s totally hot. We’re getting married and you’re going to be my best man.”
“Wrong!” I thought. “Do not marry her.” But that isn’t what I said. In fact, I can still remember what it felt like to hold that receiver in my hand and not tell him it was wrong. I can still remember how it felt when I decided to say, “Great! I’ll be there.” Which I was.
They were divorced a few years later. A few years after that I got another call from him. “Bill, I’m marrying Theresa. You don’t have to come to this one, though. We’re only getting married for the wedding gifts so we can move to Albuquerque.”
“Wrong!” I thought. “Do not get married just for the wedding gifts.” And even though I had been right about the first marriage, I said, “Great. I love Theresa.” Which I did.
They got married, moved to Albuquerque, and then to Portland, and then got divorced. John remained in Portland, however, where he seemed to be making a life for himself. And then one day I got another phone call: “Bill, I’m moving back to Providence. I figure I’ll live there on the cheap and then commute up to New York as often as I can to try to get work with my friend at TV Land.”
“Oh, wrong, wrong, wrong!” I wanted to say. “You will not commute up to New York. This is a lame excuse to paint houses and smoke dope with the same old friends in that same old city. DO NOT DO IT!”
And I almost said it. I had been right about the two marriages, and I would be right about this. But what would be the point? Even when the stakes appeared so high, being right still meant less than keeping his trust. “Great,” I said. “Sounds like a plan.”
Which it was. He moved to Providence, but in about a year he had an apartment in Brooklyn and a job at TV Land where he was making more money than anyone in my family had ever made.
It was a great relief when I learned about John getting the job. I was glad to be wrong – not merely because I wanted John to thrive, but if in the end he alone seemed to know what was best for him, perhaps the same was true for me.
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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com