My little brother died yesterday.
He wasn’t really little. He was less than two years younger than me, but I practically raised him. We went through hell together when we were kids. My parents would disappear for a day or two at a time when we were little and I had to figure out how to scramble him an egg when he was hungry. When he had a bad dream, he woke me up and I helped him go back to sleep. When I was about ten, he developed a fear of the boogey man after we had been home alone for a couple of days. I was afraid of the boogey man too, but I didn’t tell him that. I told him that the boogey man was called the boogey man because he carried a boom box into kids’ rooms and boogied the night away.
He said I helped him be brave and strong. The truth is, he made me brave. I couldn’t have faced the demons of our life if I hadn’t had him to help him face them.
He gave me a nickname around that time: Little Mama. He said I was more a mother to him than our mother was. The nickname stuck and eventually our parents started using it. At the time, I took it as a badge of honor. I was a good person. I was helpful. I was responsible and I was grown up. Looking back, it breaks my heart that I had to take on that role. And it breaks my heart that the only kind of mothering he got was from a sister a couple years older than him.
Don’t get me wrong. We fought. A lot. Siblings do that. But we also depended on each other. Siblings do that, too.
As we hit puberty, we started to get on each other’s nerves, but we were still really close. All the moving, all the uncertainty, all the fear bonded us in a way that seemed unbreakable.
When I went away for college, I cried for the entire first year. I felt so much guilt for leaving him behind, but I knew I had to get out of there. I knew I’d die if I stayed where I was. We started to drift apart. Bad shit happened to him and I wasn’t there to help him through it.
He told me he resented me for abandoning him.
How could he not? I was the only mother figure he had, and I left him with a strung out mother who dragged him half way across the country to live with her drug smuggling boyfriend.
I had BB and we tried to reconnect, but I think he was too far broken to ever let me back in all the way. We fought. A lot.
Apparently grown siblings do that.
I abandoned him again. He was so angry with me and we couldn’t have a conversation without fighting, so I just stopped contacting him. He stopped contacting me. We just let each other slip away.
I didn’t expect him to die. In the back of my mind, I always thought we’d come around again. I always thought that’d he be there for me to bounce my memories off of. I thought he’d be there to help me make sense of everything we went through together. I thought he’d always be a witness to our childhood.
But the only person who could attest to what we went through together is gone. The only other person who has the same memories as me, the only other person who can validate my past, had a seizure and died.
My brother is dead and I’m alone with my memories. The good ones and the bad. I’m alone with nobody to understand-nobody to laugh when I sing “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. There is an entire lifetime of memories that are only half-memories now.
Jer, I’m so sorry for all you went through. I’m so sorry you felt I left you, and I’m so sorry I didn’t get to tell you goodbye. No matter what you may have felt or thought, I always loved you, I always worried about you, and now I’ll always miss you.