Many years ago I tried to apologize to an older sibling for some unkind words I’d said in a phone call. I wrote a letter explaining my unusual behavior. Her return letter still singes the far corners of my memory. I was told to get over the past and grow up. She threw in a stinging retort, for good measure, claiming she thought I’d always envied her. Why exactly? I don’t recall if she said. I tore up the letter…and took her advice. I buried the past deep within, only speaking of it with those who don’t judge me so harshly.
Jermaine Jackson‘s biography You Are Not Alone, Michael…Through A Brother’s Eyes, is a well written commentary about growing up as one of the Jackson 5. The 446-page, paperback tome caught my eye as my husband and I killed time while awaiting our homebound flight departing Heathrow Airport on the outskirts of London.
I’d not known of Jermaine’s foray into authoring a book about his famous brother. I’d seen one for sale by sister La Toya. Never a fan of hers, I passed on it. I took a chance that Jermaine’s was not going to be as self-serving as hers seemed. I’m glad I did. The biography reminded me of things I’d known, but surprised me with other, lesser known facts. Such as…
Why anyone thought my brother was incapable of fathering his own children was beyond me, as was the idea he’d use a donor when it was his personal legacy that mattered to him. I think it’s fair to say that Debbie had a dominant gene (Prince had white-blond hair when he was born) but when I look into that kid’s eyes or catch his profile side-on, his similarity to Michael as a boy is obvious. But, to nail the myth once and for all, Michael has passed on his vitiligo to Prince. My brother’s paternity is irrefutable when Prince removes his shirt. What really matters, though, is that my niece and nephews know without a shadow of a doubt that Michael was their biological father and they were born out of love.
From day one Jermaine was protective of Michael. “Maybe it was because all I heard being shouted was ‘Where’s Michael?’…’Is Michael okay?’…’Is Michael changed?’ ‘Yes, Mother…We got it…he’s here,’ one of us shouted. ‘Don’t worry. Michael’s okay. Michael’s okay.’ ”
Reading Jermaine’s words I understood that he was his brother’s keeper. I don’t doubt that all the siblings felt similarly, but he demonstrates the same sensitivitiy toward life’s ups and downs as did Michael. High one minute, low the next. Giddy at having it all, complaining when dealt some unfair blows. No different from most of us really. Their lives just played out on a bigger stage.
What resonated with me throughout this biography, as with others, is that a child’s upbringing weighs heavily in the eventual outcome of his or her life. It’s not to say its course is inevitable. Obama‘s an example of turning one’s life around. To a lesser degree, so is mine. But Obama’s past will forever be a part of his present and future, as will mine. However they can be put into proper perspective, and to good use, as building blocks for a more hopeful life ahead. We are not stuck with the hands life has dealt us.
The Jacksons, children, parents and grandchildren seem to have finally made peace with their rocky road to fame and fortune. Their strength in family ties has served them well in spite of their oft-times perceived stranglehold on certain members. Sadly all the money and adoration in the world doesn’t ensure happiness. In fact the means to have it all is like an eight-legged octopus or a Medusa’s head. The sky’s the limit becomes the modus operandi. How does one stop oneself…short of chopping off a tentacle or a head?
Joseph Jackson provided his family the escape route from the steel mills in Gary, Indiana to the moneyed Beverly Hills of California. But on the fast train out of the ghetto, Michael Jackson never learned the necessary survival skills for life’s long haul.
…too much…too soon…no time to learn…very sad…very sad, indeed