Thursday, July 13, 2017

My Twin

What would his name have been? Which of us would have been older? No matter, I would have loved him. Maybe that's why I love my brother so much.

Genesis 25:19-34
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other, 
the elder shall serve the younger.”

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

וַיִּ֥בֶז עֵשָׂ֖ו אֶת־הַבְּכֹרָֽה



careless, contempt, despicable, despise, despised, despises, disdain, disdains, disdained.

Thus ‘Esav showed how little he valued his birthright.

Although I visualize this being one more story that, hearing around the campfire yet one more time again as they make their way grumblingly all those forty years following Moses through the wilderness to God only knows where, Israelites get to chuckle, chortle and snicker about how they tricked their cousins the Edomites, those ugly, stupid hairy red apes, out of their birthright, nothing in this or any other information we have of Esau makes me think of him as other than a kind, thoughtful, loving, trusting brother and son. Yes, there’s a later story of these twin brothers (maybe we’ll read it next week or later on a Sunday, IDK, I haven’t looked ahead in the Lectionary) in which Esau is enraged because Jacob so shamefully steals the very relationship that Esau has with his father Isaac who adores his manly son, Jacob fraudulently tricks Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing and Esau uses intemperate language of rage and grief against one he has so loved and trusted; but that anger passes and in the next story that we have involving both brothers, Esau tearfully greets, welcomes and embraces his brother whom he has missed for so many years.

I do not see Esau as stupid, simple, and וַיִּ֥בֶז עֵשָׂ֖ו אֶת־הַבְּכֹרָֽה  Esau did not “despise” his birthright, rather, he was careless, trusting and unconditional in his love for Jacob. How else should it be between twins, even fraternal twins, whose relationship is closer, more intertwined, than even singleton siblings in a family. 

The reading ends with Esau set up as a stooge, which is unfortunate, but we already know that the Bible reveals Jacob as a cheating, conniving con man even in life’s closest relationships; and we know that God loves whom God will for whatever reasons God may damn well choose because God is God; and years later when Laban turns the table on Jacob and cheats him by marrying Jacob to the ugly daughter first, we must not be outraged at Laban but rather enjoy the humor and join the campfire crowd by snickering at that story as well. I mean, what the hell, life in the wilderness is tough enough as it is, and these humorous old family stories and anecdotes told under the stars at night serve to make life worthwhile afterall. 

All my growing up years I longed for two things. One as I’ve told here before, from the time our first cousins the Malone girls started arriving and coming to stay with us for weeks at a visit and I took them as my very own, I wanted a baby sister so desperately that I could hardly bear it. I only remember my mother hurting me emotionally a few times, and one that I can still stir was the afternoon I came home from school to find mama lying on her bed resting, and at the end of the bed was a bassinet dressed in pink, in which, sleeping, lay a baby girl. I asked, “Is that Suellen?” Mama replied, “No, she’s ours.” Stunned, I said, “She’s really Suellen, isn’t she?” My mother, with whom I had closer to Jacob’s trusting relationship with Rebekah than I did Esau’s relationship with Isaac, assured me, “No, she’s ours, she's really ours.” When she saw my reaction of beaming, tearfully ecstatic joy, she corrected what turned out to be the lie of my lifetime, “No, she’s Suellen,” and when she saw my face then, she realized what she had done to me, not only to my joy but to my trust, and began to apologize profusely; but the hurt had been done for a lifetime. Not sure, but I think I’ve told that memory here before.

At any event, my two longings. My other longing, which, unlike my wish for a baby girl, had no possibility of ever coming true, was to have been a twin. I wanted a twin, to be a twin, to have a twin. As a child, and perhaps for life at least to some extent, alone and a loner deep down though never particularly “lonely” if for no other reason than that I enjoyed my company, I was by myself. Growing up, I had friends, I thought, a few, though without exception over the course of life I trusted unconditionally, or unsuspectingly, and every close friend hurt or disappointed me in some way at one time or other. Truthfully this is not a whine, but remembrance, experience, statement of life. I knew that a twin would never let me down, never hurt me, that we would have been so close, intertwined. Trust would never have been a question or issue between, among, us. I would not have been alone inside of me. Twins, Thomas, a twin. I don't know, maybe the longing ignited when I was first told that Thomas means Twin and I wondered, where is he? or she? my twin.

I do remember that once, not too many years ago, Walt and I went into the county office together, to transfer ownership of a car; and the clerks behind the counter stared at us and asked, "are you twins?" I could wish so. In fact, right after I was commissioned Ensign in the USNavy, my mother in law, Linda's mother, an artist, which was why her grandchildren called her "Paint," painted a portrait of me to use as a demonstrator, and she used it for years, to show her skill and to get portrait commissions, and she painted many portraits in her career as an artist. But I was gone, away at sea and not available to sit for my portrait. So my brother Walt sat for it, stood actually. We looked enough alike that it was perfect and even though Paint painted the head and face using black and white photographs of me, she got the coloring from Walt's face. Born in 1939 and I in 1935, Walt is four years younger, so when I was 22, when the portrait was painted, Walt was 18. The face coloring had quite a young man, no beard, and the face was boyish pink. Which, if it was Walt then, had been me years earlier when I was 17 and Linda and I started dating, and Linda's father referred to me out of my hearing as "Pinky Cheeky." As in, "well, is Pinky Cheeky coming over this evening?" So the portrait, which Paint christened "The New Ensign" had pink cheeks. First seeing that, I commented on it, and Paint went back to the easel and worked in the slight shadow of a beard. 

There are other stories about The New Ensign, but that's it for now.

A blog is not a journal, nor is Blogger my confessor. It’s simply that my heart is with Esau, not Jacob. My twin would have been like him, like Esau. Even if he had been the athlete and I the brain, Esau and Esau to each other, I would never have been like Jacob to him.


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