Happy Birthday, Golden Child

Yesterday was my brother’s 37th birthday.

I thought for sure I was going to be emotional about it; birthdays have been a reminder of the family I lost when I ran away. But I really didn’t feel anything at all. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t anything. I just said today is my brother’s birthday and then I went on with my day.

I used to feel sorry for my brother. I used to feel guilty for leaving him behind. But all of that changed last month when I finally saw my brother for who he really was: my mother’s son.

I know it isn’t all my brother’s fault. I think he drank a little too much of our mother’s Kool-Aid throughout his life and he continues to see the world through the distorted lenses that she prescribed to him. He lives in my mother’s version of reality, a reality devoid of truth and decency, a reality full of lies and artificiality.

But that’s not an excuse for all of my brother’s actions. He’s had choices, yet he has continued to make the wrong ones time and time again. He’s chosen to be a follower instead of a leader. He’s chosen to be a user instead of a helper. He’s chosen to be a boy instead of a man. He’s chosen to be a husband instead of a son. He’s chosen to be greedy instead of fair. He’s chosen to hurt instead of heal.

My brother didn’t have to be that way. He made those choices on his own, and he will have to live with them. I no longer carry any guilt. I no longer feel sorry for him. I only feel sorry for the little girl who lost her brother. Her brother, the only person who was there with her through some of the pain, and the one person who should have understood more than anyone what they went through. That brother is gone, though I’m not sure he ever really existed.

I wanted my brother to be someone who I now know he will never be. I wanted him to choose good over evil. I wanted him to be better than what she wanted him to be. But that’s not who he is, and I can’t change that, just as I can’t change who my mother is, or who my father was. I can’t change any of them. I can only change me.

My brother and I share parents. We share the same last name. But that is where our similarities end. We are vastly different people, who have taken completely opposite paths. My brother chose complacency, and I chose rebellion.

My brother will always be the golden child, never doing wrong, always getting whatever he wants. But he will never realize that all of it comes with the cost of his freedom.

I will always be the black sheep, doing everything wrong, getting nothing I need. But that’s okay because I have my freedom, and that freedom hasn’t cost me anything I hadn’t lost already.

Dear Brother

Dear brother,

I wish you were the brother described on the front of this card. I wish I could have depended on you. I wish I could say “I love you” without it feeling so complicated.

You were my big brother. Seven years older, taller, and stronger than me. I looked up to you. You were the only friend I had. You were the only person that knew my reality, because you were living part of it, too.

I wonder how hard it was for you to stand by and watch me get hurt. You were there all those nights she came into our bedroom. You knew what she was doing to me in the shower. But you had to close yourself off from it all, you couldn’t help. I understood that. You were just a child, too.

I grew up and watched you struggle. I watched you get beaten, just like I had been beaten. I watched you slowly self-destruct. I heard you crying in your room at night. I was crying, too. I watched you make yourself bleed, and I bled, too. Those scars on your body that you still bear, I know how you got them. I have those same scars, too.

I still remember the night you locked yourself in the bathroom. You banged your head against the wall until you were bloodied and bruised. You couldn’t even speak. All you could do was cry. Hurt and cry. I understood, because that was the language that I spoke, too.

We didn’t know any better. We weren’t allowed to have voices. We shared the same silence. We shared the same hurt. We shared the same pain. I understood you. I thought you understood me, too.

But then you turned against me. You became her adjutant. You pretended to be my brother only to report everything back to her. You helped her terrorize me. You stood by her side as she treated me like a prisoner. Why? You are her son, but you were also my big brother. I needed you. You could have protected me, but you didn’t.

I wanted so badly to help you. I felt horrible leaving you behind. I was weighed down with guilt for over a year. Did you ever feel any of those things when you chose to work against me? You never reached out. You never once showed me that you cared. You told lies about me just like she did, when you could have just said nothing at all.

I used to envy you. I wondered why she loved you so much. Then when I got older, I realized that’s not love. It’s abuse, too. I hope one day, for your sake, you will see that she doesn’t love you. What she’s done to you, what she continues to do to you — it’s not love. It never was.

Part of me fears that it’s too late for you. You’ve become so much a part of her that you don’t even know who you are without her, and who you could be. There’s a great big world out there waiting for you to see. I hope you see it one day.

We have chosen different paths. I chose to be nothing like her. I chose to be free. But you’ve chosen to follow in her footsteps. You’ve chosen to stay.

I’m grieving your loss, because I’ve realized you will never be the brother I needed you to be. I held out hope that you would make the right choice, but you haven’t. I don’t blame you, but I hope you understand why I have to let you go.


Brother

I wasn’t an only child.  My mother decided to bring two children into this world to torture.

My brother is seven years older than me.  Growing up, we were never that close; that probably has to do with the age and gender difference more than anything.  Like me, he was the target of physical and emotional abuse from both parents.  For us, it was our “normal”.  We grew up being drilled not to talk to anyone about anything, that whatever happens at home stays at home.  So how were we supposed to know any different?

I do know my parents treated my brother differently than me.  He was allowed to have friends over; that was never an option for me.  He was allowed to go outside; I was stuck in home-prison.  He had much more freedom than I ever did.  With that being said, using the word freedom may be an overreach.  That was the extent of his freedom.  Even now, as an adult in his mid-30s, he has to report his actions back to General Mom.

My brother has always done the minimum he needed to do to get by…academically, socially, and occupationally.  He failed out of college two or three times.  He’s worked at a grocery store for more than fifteen years and I guess he’s okay with that.  He’s never made attempts to move on or improve.  He wastes his money shopping for frivolous things – a habit which he inherited from our mother.  He could do better, he just won’t.

On some level, I do relate to my brother.  I can see his pain.  He has self-injured for at least the last 12 years.  I remember the first time I became aware of it.  He locked himself in the bathroom and began bashing his head into the wall dozens of times, until he came out swollen, bloodied, and bruised.  What did my parents do?  They screamed at him and banished him to his room.

After that, I became more aware of his other injuries – the cuts on his arms and legs, the burns on his hands.  One morning, he came home from work with his hand all mangled up.  He had “accidentally” slipped it in a commercial mixer at work.  In my heart, I believe he did it on purpose.  His story just didn’t add up.  Neither of my parents ever acknowledged his actions, even though it was quite obvious what was going on.  He was struggling through the trauma, just like I was.

You would think, in our shared experiences, that my brother and I would be close and able to relate.  We couldn’t be farther apart.  I stopped talking to my brother about anything significant years ago.  Unlike me, he is completely attached to my mother.  They share everything about each other.  They have nightly “conferences” (that is what my father calls them) in which they meet in my brother’s bedroom with the door closed.  I don’t dare assume what goes on – they do not want to be disturbed – and I don’t think I really want to know.  All I know is that it is not normal.  I have even had outsiders comment to me how it seems like my mother and brother are married; if they only knew what went on at home.

I don’t understand the connection between my brother and my mother, and it angers me.  How can you be this way to a person that hurt you so much?  It’s sick.  Sometimes, I conclude that he must be brainwashed by her.  That is the only explanation I can come up with.