This post is a little different from my typical post. It’s very personal and some of you may not want to read it. (Mom, you might not want to.)
There is a line in the book Beautiful Boy that always makes me cry: How do you explain to an eight-year-old when his brother steals from him?
I don’t remember the first time my brother stole from me. Was it the time he took my piggy bank, filled to the brim with shiny, silver coins I’d so painstakingly saved? Or was it the time I came home to find my portable video game system along with all the games had been taken? I do remember the first time he took my parent car. The green Volkswagen Jetta that I was later to inherit never drove the same after he wrecked it that night.
My brother, older to me by 5 years, is currently in a rehab program. When I was in elementary school he was in and out of jail. When I graduated to high school, he graduated to prison. He’s never done anything crazy – he’s not a murderer, drug dealer, or any sort of high-crime character. He’s an almost-thirty year old who can’t figure out life. He does drugs. He drinks too much. He steals stuff. Last time he went to prison it’s because he broke into my neighbor’s house, a coworker of my parents, and stole their tv in the middle of the night. How did I find out that it was my neighbor? I was at a friend’s house and said neighbor came over. They, not knowing who I was at the time, told the story of how the husband, member of the NRA and avid gun aficionado, pulled a hand gun on my brother – and fired. The gun locked up. I sat there, on the back patio of my friend’s house, hearing for the first time the story of house my brother almost died a mere week earlier.
Everyone who knows someone with a substance abuse problem knows that the family members feel guilty at one point or another. I’ve never blamed myself for my brother’s problems. What I do feel guilty over are my conflicted feelings about my brother. When he’s in prison, which is most of the time, my family becomes one of two parents and one child. We have a routine down and we’re happy. Then, he returns. Suddenly everything is thrown out of balance and the tense, uncomfortable family that exists must attempt to find some middle ground. Everyone walks on eggshells making an already awkward moment even worse. Just when we adjust to being a family of four, he lets us down again.
This may have sound harsh to you.
The thing is you’re new to the story. I live the story. I know how it ends. My brother will come home again. He’ll do great. He’ll get an apartment (with the help of my parents), a job (with the help of me), a car (again from my parents) and slowly continues his uphill battle. My parents will help him obtain everything he needs to live a normal life – a bed, a vacuum, food for his fridge…. They’ll tell me how wonderful he’s doing and that they’re proud of him. I’ll start to believe it, my hard exterior will melt a little and I’ll let myself hope that it’s different this time. Then my mom will tell me he’s been arrested again and he’s in jail/prison/fill-in-the-blank. And then I watch my parents attempt to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives… again. I will listen to my father – my father who does not cry – do just that. I will listen to my mother ask me, despair in her voice, if it’s her fault. And I will try to move on with my life like it doesn’t kill me a little inside each time by big brothers fails us all again.
I know, I sound like a bitch. I’m not going to deny it. I sound selfish. He’s the one who’s struggling and I have the audacity to use the words ‘fails us again’. But, you know what? After 15 years you have to find some way of dealing with it for your own sanity.
I love my brother. He’s… well, he’s my brother. And he always will be. I’ll always be there for him and I’ll always be supportive. I’m just having a difficult time trying to sort out my feelings right now.
Lost Things (July 9, 2009)
Dazed in the head, like I can’t think
I know in my heart you’re worth so much more
Yet here I am again, my heart so tore
You did it again
Why do I feel like it’s my sin
You’re gone again
Again, Again, Again.
Like you, I’m so wild
I can’t be myself
For those I have to protect
The ones I respect
I can’t watch them hurt
Each other’s pain
We try to avert
Unintentional on your part
Still breaks apart
My heartMy brother missed my elementary school graduation, my high school graduation, my first apartment. He missed my 18th birthday, my 21st birthday. He missed all my missteps and my big steps. Now I’m going through one of the biggest transitions in my life and he’s not here. I love him with all my heart and wish he could be there. This is nothing against him. This is me expressing my feelings the only way I know how.