Twenty six years ago today my father died. It was my brother’s 12th birthday.
I’ve just returned from my first run back and the almost four miles gave me time to think. I barely noticed my breath, hardly felt my legs, concentrated on the stunning last chapter of The Lovers and was lost in my thoughts.
There was a line in the last chapter of Vendela’s book about death that spoke personally to me. It said something about how we all grieve differently and in time the grief dulls more and more until it fades.
My dad’s death has faded enough for me that I don’t cry about it anymore. The loss has become an integral part of the person that I was meant to become.
I haven’t seen my brother in over seven years. His life, like all of ours, changed the day Al Feldman died. Sadly though, his own inability to move past it has darkened the days of his own life; been used as the excuse for all that is wrong with his world.
When my brother called on Christmas, I almost didn’t answer the phone because I knew I would be exhausted by the anguish he exudes and makes sure you feel throughout his conversations.
I did answer the phone, it was Christmas after all, and after a moment of niceties was bombarded by his huge anger. He was angry over the fact that his computer had died. He began a rant about needing a Mac and insisted he couldn’t learn to use a pc. It would be too expensive for him to buy a new Mac, since he hasn’t had or been able to keep a job in years. His Mac is a few years old, which is ancient, and the guy at Apple said to buy a new one. How he got one in the first place was never discussed, though I wondered. On and on in circles. Antagonizing bitterness that could be cut with a knife.
As I listened and responded with a level head, he became more and more belligerent and aggressive. He accused me of being hateful; of being like everyone else. How dare I not agree? How dare I not jump on the band wagon of woe is he?
He was beyond reason, which is what happens more and more every time we talk and I realized in that very moment, when I asked him what he wanted me to do about it, that the brother I knew as a child was really gone.
I mourn the loss of my brother today, because I honestly don’t think I’ll ever see him again. He didn’t attend my wedding and has never met my children.
When someone you love can no longer be reasoned with, when every conversation swings from highs based in an unreal world to lows that only the strongest can climb up from, what is there left to do?
Pray? Hope? Cross fingers? Stomp feet and scream?
I miss my dad today as I do all the time, but he is with me still, despite being an angel in heaven that is probably smoking a cigar with a crate of strawberries in his arms calling all the ladies, “Sweet heart.” I would bet money that my birth mom is near by; there’s no way she could resist his charms. He was of a different time. A spectacular man.
I feel like my brother is the one who has gone. I’m sad for him. I want help for him. I will always love him. But my power to protect him, to show him the way, to convince him everything will be alright is gone.
Mental illness is a death of it’s own. It is more painful than a permanent death, because the pain and suffering is so alive. Today I feel like I begin a new grieving process. I await a call to let me know he is at peace, however that peace may come. I hope it’s his voice on the other end of the phone saying, “I get it, I am responsible, I forgive, I am living, I am happy!” Unfortunately, that’s not the call I expect I will get.
I will continue to hope and pray. My fingers remain crossed and I feel at peace with how I’ve handled my part in his life.
Today I will remember the boy two years younger who was sweet and good and not marred by pain. No one should live in pain. There is far too much joy.