Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, My Brother

I am not quite sure where to begin, but I guess I'll start wherever my memories land me.

He had very dark brown, almost black hair. He had thick black eyebrows and deep dark brown eyes.  He had a dark side to go along with his looks.

The kids in the neighborhood called him "Hurricane" because of his uncontrollable temper.
The strongest memories, including the earliest ones, I have of him are filled with anger.
He was angry and he generated angry feelings in those around him.

I was 13 years old when he was born.  He was the middle child sandwiched between my two younger sisters.  As the older sister to all three, I changed their diapers, fed them their bottles and took them to the park.  I guess I was a second mother to all three.

When he was 14 he took my father's car out for a "joyride" and totaled it.   Up until that point the problems he had in school were justified  by my parents with the excuse that he had a temper just like our father had when he was a young boy.  They expected that my brother would outgrow the behavior.

I have answered his middle of the night phone calls, picked him on darkened streets and bailed him out of jail.  I have been embarrassed by his outbursts in public places.  And I have been punched by him.

He caused both of my parents a great deal of heartache.

After my father died, he took advantage of my mother by constantly harassing her for money.   When the verbal abuse turned physical, my siblings and I removed my mom from the home she shared with him.  My mom went to spend time with my sister who lived on the other side of the country.

After my mom left, my siblings found an apartment for him and helped him set it up.
We bought a car for him with the hope that it would make finding a job easier.
We guided him with social services to provide the help he needed to get back on track.

We would do this for him many times over the next several years.

He continues to check in and out of mental health facilities and drug rehabs.

Many hours, days, weeks and months of my life have been wasted by worrying about him, fearing him, being disgusted by him.

He started taking drugs when he was a young teenager. I am sure he tried every one out there including alcohol.  His drug of choice became heroine.   He has been on methadone for over 20 years, but continues to supplement with sometimes prescribed medications, and mostly street bought stuff.

My mom never stopped worrying about him.  Three years ago she became ill with cancer.  He continued to harass her until she became too ill to live on her own.

At that point my other sister took over the "care" of my brother.  My mother and brother had an unhealthy co-dependent relationship.
My sister provides help with practical day to day issues, such as replacing his lost cell phones, and making sure his rent gets paid.   But she does not tolerate his abusive behavior and has established boundaries.

I stopped having any contact with him about 10 years ago.

My mom spent the last days of her life lying in a hospital bed in my home.  She continued to fight and hang on.  When she finally lapsed into a coma,  I told her it was okay for her to go, that we would all be okay.  But it seemed as though she was waiting...

My sister suggested that my brother talk to her on the phone.    I put the phone up to her ear and I heard him say:   "Don't worry, I am going to be okay."  "I'm doing much better".  "Be at peace now, Ma."
"I love you, Ma."
A few hours later, she died.

I saw him at my mom's funeral for the first time in many years. I was shocked by his appearance.  His hair is almost all gray, and he barely has any teeth left.   He was no longer the scary monster that I remembered.  The tender feelings I had for him as a little boy came rushing back.   As we walked down the church aisle behind my mom's casket, I heard him sobbing behind me. I turned around and took him in my arms and told him everything would be okay.

I have not seen or heard from him since my mom's funeral, two years ago.
That is by my choice.

I learned a long time ago that I would not be able to "fix" him.

Two months after my mom passed away, my 35 year old son was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  He died last Monday, December 5.

Among the many lovely sympathy cards I have received in the past week, I shed tears when I read this one.

Even though I have many painful memories of our relationship,  oh, my little brother, you still tug at my heart strings.  

How sad that you never got the help you needed when you were young enough for it to have made a difference.  
Oh, my brother

After losing my precious son, my perspective on life has certainly changed.

I think I need to let him know that I love him too, after all he is my little brother. 


  1. Lynda, you bring tears  to my eyes with just about every post.   Ross

  2. Wow.  That went deep for me.  And very very timely.  

  3. Lynda, you are remarkable.  I like what Ross said.  You do have sadness to share but the way you share it is remarkable.  I love the way you write.  Thank you.