Follow by Email

Sunday, November 19, 2006

He (ain't) heavy, he's my brother.....

When I was a little girl, I had the most wonderful big brother. I depended on him like most kids would depend on their fathers- if I were at a friend's house playing, and I wanted to come home, I would call home and ask for him. Without a moment's hesitation, he would drive his velveteen van straight over to pick me up. In the summer, he would cheer me down the green bean garden rows with promises of an afternoon at the beach when my chores were finished. We'd finish off those hazy days, burnt and sandy, with a pizza pop and ice cream cone at the drive-in greasy spoon that was on our way home. In winter time, he'd pack up his skis and my crazy carpet and we'd head off for a day on the hills. Money was never an issue. I had none, he had what we needed.

He helped me put together my covered wagon bedside lamp from Yellowstone National Park, and never criticized when I mistakenly cut it in the wrong places. He patiently taught me the difference between inches, feet, and centimeters. He let me drive the big tractor when I didn't know how, and remained completely calm when I jack-knifed the thing trying to turn a corner. He read me the funnies on Saturdays. When I was about four, he bought me a blue elephant for Christmas. None of my sisters got an elephant that year, and no one was jealous. It was just assumed and accepted that he and I shared such a special friendship.

Then we grew up. I'd see him occasionally when he was manic and on a road trip to the city we lived in at the time. He'd rent a hotel room, invite me and the kids over for a swim, order us all chicken from KFC. The kids thought he was terrific. He'd let them style his hair with plastic barrettes until he'd pass out in their crib. He'd offer to take them for cab rides all over the city. He'd laugh and talk and play. They never recognized him as the same morose, quiet uncle they'd met before at grandma and grandpa's house.

The last time we shared a swim with him, he got booted out of the hotel some three or four days later. His behavior was wildly inappropriate. I went to see the hotel manager, tried to explain his illness, apologized for his actions, told him I understood. I told my brother to go home. I insulted him. It cut me deeply to have this role reversal, and to do so with less patience than he'd shown me in the plastic wagon nightlight days.

I tried to establish a peer relationship with him. However, his years poor choices, alcoholism, and deviant interactions with women had seeped into his character by this point. My children felt that God-given sense of discomfort in his presence. I felt it also. I began to suspect that he no longer had a truthful perception of sexuality, and my sense of protectiveness as a mother had to override the love I had as a sister to a brother.

There is no peace in his eyes. He no longer hears words as they are intended. He begins sentences with; "Women..." . And you know its not meant to build us up. Conversations are initiated with the intent of getting into a well heated disagreement.

I mourn him. I remember him. I sometimes want to hate him.

And my heart bleeds with terrible, bottomless sadness.

18 comments:

michele said...

~








~

Anonymous said...

Your account breaks my heart. I remember him from your oldest sister's wedding...young, good looking, the world before him. "Oh Father, have mercy on him", is my prayer for him today.

lettuce said...

Oh Joyce, how awful to feel that loss alongside your other lost brother.

My heart mourns for you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

So sad.

Judy - www.judyh58.blogspot.com

Joyce said...

ME- thank you for your note, which I deleted at your request.
I've avoided writing on this topic since I did not want to disrespect my bro, or say anything online that I am not willing to say face to face. Now, I know that this is also MY STORY. Yes, its about him, but its about me too. I wish for my real brother to return, for peace to fill his eyes, for the freedom to invite him for dinner, for a chance to laugh and be together. Love is terribly complex, and with the many hats one wears, and all the plates to spin, only the Holy Spirit will have adequate knowledge and direction for me in this case.
Father forgive us all.

Anonymous said...

Joyce- thanks for the post. Our family experienced something similar, our situation was a bit more mild I think. Sadly we really gave up hope but 30 years later it turned around when the alcoholism was under control. Now there are good relationships. I'll say a prayer for your family today.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was from me.
-Heather

End Hunger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather said...

Oh man. That's rough.

In church on Sunday, a man spoke about how he'd finally sobered up after 50 years of living with alcoholism. He seems a changed man. I hope the same for your brother.

My father-in-law also lives with addiction to the bottle, but it is of the subtler, easier-to-hide kind.

andrea said...

Sad ... but happy, too. We are so much more than the sum of our parts. Beautifully written, Joyce.

Anonymous said...

man!
i'm sorry joyce. that's just so very hard. thanks for sharing with us all. thanks for being YOU.

Marshkies said...

Oh Joyce... how beautiful and how sad. I lived with that brother as well, and how nice to hear about that soft gorgeous heart of his. I did not experience or see that. God give us patience strength & wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joyce.

Your brother was a special person. I'm sorry that you probably feel like you keep losing him over and over again.

I have two brothers who are alcoholics. One is bipolar and has things under control despite refusing to take medication. Or at least he's okay right now.

The other brother is only 22 and began drinking again this summer. I feel like it's only a matter of time before I get a phone call telling me that he won't be getting any older.

Joyce said...

30 years, and 50 years. Yes, I believe and hope for such miracles.
And we are so much more than the sum of our parts. True wonder and beauty in this life exist in the collage of all its unlikely and incongruent parts. I am glad I shared this, have spent much time in thought about it, don't know what my place in it is as a sister, and as a woman... as you can well imagine. I have no illusions of being some savior here, just don't want to contribute more to his darknesses.
And these things feel like death in ways.
Daphne- the odd thing about phone calls is that they can be in reference to what you didn't expect AT ALL. Still we waver in this in between place... they are still with us, but really... Not at all.
Surreal.

Anonymous said...

He was the brother I talked with, played with, dreamed with. We had a special connection. I have so many fond memories of him. Years ago Eatons or The Bay (Can't remember which one - but it was on Portage) had one of their floors devoted to art work. We used to go there to enjoy the paintings. He had such an appreciation of beauty. It would be wonderful to get him back - healthy. Laura

esther said...

i really have nothing to say, but that i am so glad that i'm getting to know your beautiful heart...

Anonymous said...

That is a sad story Joyce.