(I’m guessing I’ve written that sentence before with each preceding number as well)
Having lost both of my older siblings, I find myself staring at my mortality more often these days.
One could say that having just celebrated my 64th birthday a couple of days ago helps that along as well, I suppose.
As I was running yesterday, I thought of my birthday five years ago, because that was when I learned that my brother was fatally ill. I remember thinking that my birthday would never be the same again because I would always know that was the day I knew, no way out, no hiding, that my brother was dying.
Mixed in with the grief, the fear, the anxiety, was shame…shame that having heard (from our younger sister, Anne) my brother was dying, I was thinking about myself. I think I’ve been carrying that around for these five years now.
Can I put that burden down…please?
I’ve written about our older sister Elle and the journey she and I took when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. People have remarked on what a great brother I was to her.
What I did for Elle was nothing compared to what our younger sister Anne did for our older brother Pat. She was there for him day after day, week after week, year after year.
Our father (who I believe most fervently is NOT in heaven), basically dumped Pat and left Anne to take care of him. There’s a lot more to that story but we’ll let it go for today.
My sister made sure that Pat had everything he could possibly need and as much as he wanted as was reasonable. An incredible woman, that sister of mine!
Pat had Parkinson’s in a very advanced stage and was nearly immobilized by time he became ill for the last time. It took that illness to truly take him down though…he was determined to live the hell out of his life in whatever way he could.
When he was younger and still able, Pat was an amazing dancer. He was ridiculously handsome with nearly blonde hair and blue eyes that had a depth that almost…almost…hid his devilishness.
Since he had a very severe speech impediment and at times simply could not project his voice, he often would have the women who worked at the group home where he lived come closer to him so that they could understand him. He’d speak more and more softly so they’d lean in and down more, and he would happily gaze down their blouses! My big brother…damn, I miss him.
When we were kids, he was picked on constantly; he had suffered brain damage as a very small child which left him with that speech impediment and a relatively low IQ. Brooklyn in the 50s was not a good place for that combination, and the bullies were many; hell, they were legion. I became Pat’s defender…no one messed with him when I was around or they had to get through me first. Which they did quite often actually as I was a really small, skinny kid back then. Nevertheless, I protected him as best I could and saved him from many a beating.
That was our pattern. I became the big brother to my big brother.
His story is a rough one; it deserves to be told. Pat deserves to have it told!
I really should tell it in detail someday…
I lost direct contact with Pat when I moved to California in ’91 but kept up with him through Anne.
How I wish I could have those days back. How I wish I could have figured out a way to live my life with him in it.
But I can’t and I didn’t.
Man, this stuff gets heavier each year.
I’d like to put that burden down someday too.
Do you have siblings you love?
Have you told them lately?
Have you told them in a way that resonates with them? (some people prefer words, others prefer actions, you know).
Take a minute and tell him or her.
Writing about all this helps me feel a bit lighter believe it or not.
I think it’s because I am taking these things I have held onto for years and opened them up and let the daylight shine on them. Each time I do, even though I fold them up again like a fragile piece of parchment, they crumble a bit more and they get a bit smaller, a bit more manageable.
My love for Pat never diminishes, never gets brittle.
It’s as bright as his blue eyes.