Brother

January 10th, 2012
Today I watched two little boys say goodbye to their big brother. It was the last time they would see him in this plane and the confusion and sadness in their faces broke my heart. They cried very little only wiping the tears bravely and occasionally. Staying close to the parents that love them so deeply. I am sure they were comforted by the composure and grace that their parents carried throughout this life changing tragedy. I often do not see funerals that end with such  poignancy. Seeing those boys give their brother a last rose graveside left me speechless.
I am the oldest of three. My sister of course, who has been by my side forever. Good, bad and ugly. It’s a given. I also have a brother, four years younger than me. We are not so close. I like to remember that some time ago we were.
When I was training for boot camp, hee hee hee, we used to go running on the beach together. He always wore these giant untied high tops and jeans. I was all geared up – I love gear, total fitness apparel, timers, proper headwear. So silly. He didn’t give shit what anybody thought by that time in his life. He was probably 15 then. At the time the three of us were living with my stepfather. It was ridiculously small in his condo and we were all so far apart from one another socially, it was bizarre. My sister was a kid for Christ’s sake.
The weekend I was flying out for boot camp, I said goodbye to my friends and family and I said goodbye to my brother and sister. Her at that awkward early teen and him beginning to become more manly and full of solemn angst. My brother was always an advocate and friend of the underdog. His best friend for years was the huge (they called him the hulk) down syndrome boy up the street. He watched Dr. Who and liked cats and other small animals. I am now convinced he liked them better than people. I assume he felt like he could trust them.
My brother felt and was often right in doing so persecuted by his father and the community alike. I waved goodbye only to be picked up a few hours later due to a blizzard of course. I bought more cigarettes and spent the weekend. It was snowy and cold and I don’t remember much else aside from saying bye to my sister and brother again. That was really the last time I said good-bye to him.
As I knew him.
My brother is institutionalized. He has been in prison for more than two, eight year consecutive sentences. I have seen him a handful of times over the past 20 years and each time I have felt less and less connected to him. The last time he was out was last year for a coupe of months before he didn’t take the paroled meds and commit a random act of violence. Thank God he didn’t hurt anybody because I am sure its just easier for him to live simply with a routine and unwavering rules.
A sense of danger maybe?
I don’t know. I try not to assume too much because I really don’t know what his problem is aside from the fact that he is mentally ill. I know that I do not go into prisons anymore. They scare me. The people who visit, the people who work there and the guests themselves. I have never sent my brother pictures of my children and we don’t talk about him often. He is just in an institution.  That’s it.
A psychic told me years and years ago that he would be institutionalized for life. So far it has been more than half. Quite frankly it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon. I am glad last time I saw him I was open-minded and talking to him as an adult that I was interested in, although I don’t truly know him any longer. I spoke to him with a guarded respect and was curious to hear what he was thinking and feeling about life in general. I brought him the new Stephen King book. It was near Christmas I think.
I am glad I spent that hour with him that day, it was the last time I said goodbye.
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