Today is my youngest brother's birthday and he's been on my mind most of the day. I haven't spoken to him since last January. I called him to check in but he didn't want to talk. He promised he'd call me later but "later" never came.
Just from the sound of his voice I knew he was not in a good place when I spoke to him that day. He'd been out of work for a number of years due to an L&I injury. Then he'd gone through a big legal battle to get retraining so he could get back to work. Like most people he hadn't foreseen the down turn in the economy.
The career he picked was booming when he started his schooling. By the time he finished there were no jobs to be found especially for a nearly sixty year old beginning a new career. His contract with L&I only allowed him a short period of time to find a job after finishing school. Even though there were no jobs to be found, the state cut him loose and he had nothing to fall back on.
I was worried for him. I kept calling but he didn't return my calls. I suspected his phone was disconnected and it was not long before his usual snarky voicemail message was replaced by a computer generated one to confirm my suspicions. After that it turned into the phone number for someone else.
Despite my numerous attempts to get my brother to tell me where he lived, I was never able to get that specific information. He's had some major ups and downs in his life and he's been pretty private about the downs. I tried to respect that so did not push him into giving me any information he didn't want to share. Ever since I lost contact with him, I have regretted my decision. I wish I had insisted or argued better to get him to let me in. I hate not knowing where things in his life have gone since that last phone call.
While I am estranged from the rest of my siblings, I have maintained an ongoing relationship with this brother. It is a bond that was formed while my father was dying from cancer and my mother was working to support us kids.
Being the oldest girl, I took care of the household and my younger siblings while our mother was gone during the day. She would leave a list of chores including instructions for snacks and meals.
My father was diagnosed as terminal when I was about nine. The youngest, my sister, was two. My youngest brother was three. The next brother was five and there was one seven. My oldest brother was a teenager and gone much of the time.
My father spent those last years in a hospital. My mother was determined that we, kids, not be exposed to my father dying. I was equally determined to do everything in my power to keep the "little kids" (the four younger than me)from being affected by having both parents gone and to make things as easy on my mother as I could.
To this end I worked to see my mother came home to a clean house with the chores all accomplished as she'd instructed and dinner on the table. I perfected my cooking skills and got pretty darn good at baking. Every night I made some special dessert so there was something to look forward to besides our usual low budget meals. I tried to be sure everyone was doing homework too.
I also made sure each birthday was celebrated. The little kids always had a party with their buddies from the neighborhood. I scheduled games for them to play and used baby sitting money to buy little prizes. I even remembered to take pictures so our mother could at least "see" the party and everyone would have keepsakes.
Outwardly, it looked like we were all getting through a bad situation pretty well. Inwardly there were dark secrets. When they came to light, the family shattered which is pretty common in families with secrets such as ours. The person exposing the truth is often shunned while the rest of the family close ranks to protect the abusers.
Only my youngest brother remembers the love I tried to share and the protection I tried to give back in those dark times. Somehow the bond we formed then was never broken despite all the pressure from the rest of the family.
He has tried over the years to see if he could mend the fences destroyed because I exposed the family's secrets but to no avail. Still he's hung in there with me despite the fact I won't conform and resume the dysfunction it takes to be actively involved in my family of origin. That makes him very precious to me.
Over the years there have been months, sometimes, when I didn't hear from him with only one exception. That involved a dispute between him and my oldest daughter and was one of those dark times in his life. Then I didn't hear from him for a couple of years.
Whenever there have been hard times for him, he has always withdrawn but still he's stayed foremost in my mind. I pray and I worry hoping that he's doing ok and that life is being kind to him. Even at my sickest times in the hospital he was on my mind.
Recently someone told my youngest son that my brother has died. I have been unable to find proof that has happened. I have also been unable to find any record of him anywhere. It's like everything just stopped after he finished his schooling last year. All day long I have wondered "Is he celebrating this birthday or is he out there somewhere needing help?" I wish I had the answer but mostly I hope my brother has some peace, wherever he might be.
NOTE: By the time I finished this post, the day was actually gone. My brother's birthday is March 15.
I don't even have a picture of my brother. I lost whatever pictures I had from those early days during a divorce and my brother likes posing for the camera about as much as I do making more recent pictures out of the question. BUT, my brother is a dog lover so I posted a picture of Sugar. I wish I had a picture of the King James Spaniel he was sporting on his arm the last time I saw him but he wouldn't fall for that trick.