My Realizations The Autobiography of Julian Lee  /  COPYRIGHT 2009 JULIAN LEE
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My Brother and Sisters

The oldest was tall and brown-haired Mark. I admired him him greatly. To me he was Mr. Cool, the best at everything. He was the best looking (I always considered myself the unfortunate one in looks), the most popular, the most skilled. In his teens he was the manager of a teen dance club in my town that was the "hippest" thing going. As a young teen I went and lurked around my brother's operation, called "The Nowhere," watching bands and watching girls, and trying to stay out of his way because he treated me like a nuisance as big brothers often treat their little brothers, especially in places where he wanted to be as "cool" as possible. Little brothers have a way of spoiling your "cool," because they are always way less cool. This is natural.

Just as with my father, I sensed that many people admired Mark, and I was so proud of him. I also sensed in him, retroactively, a basic insecurity. I realized later that he was never so confident of his "coolness," but was just putting himself out there as best he could. But he was once the student council president of my prestigious high school, Roosevelt High, and I was impressed to see the "campaign posters" of him featuring a hand-painted portrait of himself, done by his girlfriend. He was a flashy dresser, always having the latest thing for men, even working at THE cutting edge clothing store downtown, where you could get the best duds, called "Marcovis'/The Loft."  In the ferment of the 1960's, he was what could be called an "aesthetic hippie" type. They cared about good music, art, and elegance more than politics. I became the same sort.

Mark Mickunas,
My Oldest Sibling & Brother
My oldest brother Mark. I can almost audibly hear him saying something witty and funny here, as is his steady nature. Usually his humor has a certain edge to it and he likes to deconstruct  people or situations a lot like my mother Virginia did.Thankfully he began to spare me of that treatment in later years as he became softer in age! He made an excellent father,which has to say something about my own father who Mark had in the largest doses. He has a gift for understatement and can say a lot in a few words. One recent example: 'I belong to the the Virginia Mickunas cult but am a member of the Victor Mickunas clan.' He became the only real center and patriarch of the Mickunas family. He was and is always well turned-out, seemingly without trying. I could never match him.And he was the one who got Grandma Lee's dimples. 8o) It fell to Mark to go looking for me when I ran away more seriously around age 13. Because he's a clever man, he found me. And because he has a good heart, he brought me home without a word of criticism, just like my father had done years earlier.
He did develop a bohemian political world view, likes NPR, where I finally developed a conservative one. He liked weed and wine. I was a teetotaler. We ended up with the same ecological views and that started early in both of us. One of the best things about my older brothers was ransacking their music collections. His final interests were architecture, design, crafts, and family life. He married a wonderful woman and had five children. I remember him successfully making a beautiful wardrobe, for pay. He had a job for years creating accurate architectural models for architectural firms to use as project displays. I was amazed to see him, in later life, sitting there and sewing himself a white shirt by hand. In later life he took to letting his yard grow wild and became a beekeeper, trying to save the bees in their hour of need, and discomfiting the neighbors with his wilds. My brother Mark is an amazing guy!

Though I deeply admired my oldest brother, he was hard on me in my youth and considered me a pest. He mostly had sharp words for me and not words of encouragement or affirmation. Later, at the death of my mother, we had a talk about that and he softened suddenly, seeming to register everything and adjust his ways. From that time on, we had many excellent and sometimes uproarious conversations. All his children, my nephews, were intelligent and creative like the rest of us.

The next brother down, the blond Victor, was also a very strong personality. He was a strong intellect, an acerbic wit, a scholar of sorts, and later a bohemian type and epicure who was the city's music maven.
He had radio shows where he played selections of jazz, or any genre, with intelligent commentary. He always knew a little bit about everything.
Left: My older brother Victor around age 19 in Des Moines apparently coming home from shopping.As a Taurus Rising he became an Epicurean style hippie of sorts, always having many nice things, and a connoisseur of everything from music, to wine, to who-knows-what. How many music groups I learned about by stealthily shuffling through his elegant record collection! A formidable personality, many seemed to to be in awe of Victor. It seemed at times that what little aura of respectability I had among some peers came from the fact that I was "a Mickunas," and more particularly, from the fact of who my brothers were. As if the only reason some fellows even talked to me was because "His  brother is Victor Mickunas." While I dreamed of being a rock star, both of my older brothers were already, naturally, that. When young, he seemed to be loaded with historical knowledge of Europe and the wars. He loved to play with hordes of small plastic army soldiers and reenact history battles. He was highly verbal and was a tease. In any conversation he would find some way to give you a little mockery, a little jab. He loved sarcasm. All of my family seemed to be experts in sarcasm, and this apparently came from my mother because I never remember a sarcastic word from my father. Later I noticed that all my mother's sisters, and they were a group of four women, were even more sarcastic than us boys and I realized there was the mother lode from our art had flowed. I have to assume that the original fount was my grandmother on mother's side. Possibly because of these aunts and my own mother, to this day I appreciate a woman who has the capacity for cynicism and clever mockery when directed at those who deserve it. Maybe it's a fault of mine, but a female with a rapier wit can get a guilty laugh out of me, and an uproarious one. I could enjoy the conversation of such a female for hours, whereas others might be put off by it, as long as she herself has some class and some morals. In the movie "Pride and Prejudice" featuring Colin Firth, the rich man Bingham has one such sister, a dark-haired and elegant cynic. Though the character was not that good-looking, and could be described as negative and conspiring, she was one of my favorite persons in the tableau because she was just like my aunts.
But this trait of cynicism and sarcasm in Victor -- the sharpest wit of my brothers -- made him prickly, hard to talk to, and hard to stay close to. In later years it was difficult to get a straight, sincere word out of him. He continued his career in radio and became a noted radio interviewer of authors, and was known for being the best informed interviewer or the author circuit, having usually actually read his guests' books. I always sensed in him a tender heart, and a lot of emotions. But with the later divorce of my parents, all of us became very distant, and he perhaps more than the others.

I was next in the line. Then there was Joe: Witty, funny, exceedingly handsome, a ladies' man, a sporting fellow, one of the guys. He enjoyed baseball, then basketball, then hockey, then hunting, then golf, and even archery. He seemed to do it all. Joe was the most lovable of the group, with emotions closest to the surface. But again, I became distant from all my brothers partly through my solitary nature, and partly through the divorce and the way it was handled (or not handled).

Under Joe was Kathy, the first girl. I felt close to her in childhood and fond of her as the first girl. We ended up increasingly distant with the divorce. She became a very wholesome, noble-minded New England gardener, wife, mother, and Buddhist and will always be a dear sister to me who I am proud of. She has a wise, sensible, and compassionate heart.

Finally came Patty, who was basically raised as an only child though she was closer to Joe and Cathy. By the time she was "on the radar" as a personality, I was distant from the home and family, and was never close to Patty. She became very handy with carpentry, cars, and practical things (a lot like her father) and I have always had a bemused pride and admiration for her because of her abilities. She also has a great wit and sparkling sense of humor (when she's not mad or hurt). She had all of my aunts' trenchant wit and ability to analyze people, and then some. Patty is a dear who I wish I had been closer to and more supportive of, growing up. Basically, the divorce was a kind of explosion and the six strong personalities in our family went into different orbits, far apart from one another. There was great sadness in the story of my family of origin.


A rare,  fortuitous post-post-post divorce moment in which my father got to have his sons around him again, if just for a moment. Fortunately dad passed his love of photography and cameras on to Mark and Mark had his nice Canon 35mm with him when he and Vick happened to drop by and visit dad at th same time that I had dropped by. Joe was there also. (Continued right)
Unfortunately, it fell to Joe to hold the camera take the picture so he isn't in it. I realize looking at this how happy brother Vick must be at this moment. He rarely makes "goofy" faces and I notice he's clutching his father tightly. Notice that dad is reacting the same way -- in fact they are making the exact same face! This is out front of the original family home on Rollins where dad lived out depressed and isolated years. The idea to get down on my knees so the picture could be composed well and my father well-seen was my spontaneous idea. Maybe I also felt like showing deference to my alpha- brothers to keep the harmonious spirit going?

All of us were intelligent and creative personalities, and we all had a distinctive kind of family quality to our minds and manner of speaking. When I am with my brothers I am always highly entertained and delighted with their wit and way of viewing things. It feels like "me" and I am very at home with it, except when they are being overly negative or putting in knives. The same is true with Patty, she has that family mind that is uniquely ours, and is the most like my mother in terms of sparkle and deft conversation. In fact, if I ever wanted to evoke my own mother and her way of talking, her humor, and her uproarious capacity to deconstruct fools -- all I'd have to do is listen to Patty talk. Nobody was around my mother more than Patty, and she carries much of her spirit.