Friday, November 21, 2008

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time, there was a nice little family with 4 little kids. The mommy and daddy had had wacky/bad childhoods respectively, but they made a surprisingly normal life for their own children. The kind of life that they wished they'd had, but without spoiling them.

The kids were actually nice little children, with good manners in public usually. However, at home, they could be naughty. They tormented each other, fought with each other, and often made their mother cry because of it. The little kids had a love/hate relationship with each other. Probably like most siblings.

The two older kids, Oldest Sister and Oldest Brother, would relentlissly tease Baby Brother. You see, the two oldest children had dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin and definitely looked like siblings. Even though they had the same two parents, Baby Brother was the opposite of them. He was blond haired, hazel eyed, and quite pudgy. He also developed a temper at 2 years of age, worsening as he got older. But Younger Brother was so cute when he was mad, the oldest children thought. It was entertaining for Sister and Brother to tease him.
At about age five, Baby Brother began developing annoying "quirks" and weird habits. He cleared his throat a million times each hour,resulting in being verbally assaulted by the others. He got angry a lot, and would turn himself into a little billy goat and ram his siblings with the top of his head. They would laugh, which would make Baby Brother even more angry. He would foam saliva at the mouth with frustration that they weren't taking his anger seriously. Brother and Sister laughed even harder. The mom and dad didn't think the teasing was funny nor acceptable.
Soon, the older siblings came up with the brilliant fabrication that Baby Brother was adopted. This is what they told him when he was acting up or being extra annoying with his throat clearing or hand washing obsession. They would try to prove the Adoption Theory to him by saying, "Look at ourrrrrr hair, it's brown, yourrrrrrs is blooooond. Look at ourrrrr eyes, they are browwwwwn, yours are haaaaaazel." and so on. They didn't perceive that instead of tears coming out, it was rage bottling up inside his little body. Their mother knew. She pulled him into her room, got out the special box of secret treasures, and showed him the photos of his very own birth to extinguish his fears.
Next time the Elder Siblings tried to say he was adopted, he replied with a "NanananaNAHnah...I have pictures of me coming out of mommy's tummy, so I know you're liars!" Lying was something Baby Brother detested. It was something he was compulsive about not doing. Even if it meant telling and retelling stories until he got each and every detail just perfect. Just so his conscience was clear that he didn't accidentally lie.

But there were many good times too. Baby Brother was fun when it was just one on one. He had the best sense of humor and was always making the others laugh. He was funny, he was sensitive and he was creative. He always had a soft spot in his heart for the underdogs in the world, as well as for babies...prompted by the birth of Youngest Sister, when Baby Brother was 5 years old. He often worried about people biting Baby Sister's fingers off. Could it really be done? He asked The Mom 99 times each day. Oh, he would never have dreamed of doing it, he was just worried it could happen. Maybe? Possibly? What if? He lost sleep over things like these.
Even though there was fighting and teasing, Baby Brother and Oldest Sister ended up having a very close relationship, even though they did fight more than the other siblings did.

In time, the Siblings grew up as all children do, and Oldest Sister got married. Then Older Brother left home. Then Oldest Sister had her first baby. Baby Brother and Baby Niece developed a bond from the night she was born that grew and grew.

Let's change Baby Brother's name to Younger Brother. Time passed, and Younger Brother left home and discovered the party life. But Younger Brother had previous issues. He was often depressed. He often had panic attacks. We realized his quirks and obsessions actually had a name. OCD. And his OCD was out of control often. So, Younger Brother decided that he felt better when he was drinking alcohol. But that brought only problems.

When Younger Brother would come Home to visit, he never drank. He was too worried about making sure Niece and Nephew were safe at all times. He played with them. He drew with them. He did Mad Libs with them, with gratuitous use of the word "poop" and its synonyms, resulting in hysterical laughter and pure joy for the Niece and Nephew. Oldest Sister trusted him completely with her children, for he would have fought to the death to protect his flesh and blood. He adored them, and they him.

When he left, it was always with tears and promises and plans. But, when he returned home, he always turned back to the party life.

Younger Brother was always disposed to anger, so when he drank, he liked to fight. Usually there were lots of other inebriated "boys" who thought this was good sport as well. And thus started the ritual of barbaric fun, so glorified by mainstream entertainment today.
Oldest Sister was always worried. Oldest Sister wondered if her teasing the many years before somehow turned Younger Brother's anger on. Oldest Sister wondered if she bears the responsibility for his outcome.

One day, Oldest Sister received a phone call. Her cousin was shot dead at a party the night before. Younger Brother was always with Cousin. In fact, he had previously saved Cousin's very life in a bar fight Cousin started, and Younger Brother went to jail for kicking the man who had Cousin in a choke-hold. Younger Brother stopped drinking after this, didn't stay in jail and cleaned up his act. He knew that drinking was only creating problems.

One night, he got a call from Cousin begging him to come to The Fateful Party. Younger Brother refused repeatedly saying he didn't want to go, because there would be alcohol and he didn't want to be tempted.

Cousin went without him. As the party was ending, he was shot at point blank range in the stomach with a shotgun, trigger pulled by the host of the party (a life long "friend") for reasons we'll never know. Oldest Sister, Siblings and Mom and Dad knew there was another death besides Cousin, pending notification of next of kin. The Family had no news from Younger Brother. For two days. Oldest Sister was sure he was laying in the morgue, with a tag on his toe reading John Doe. For two days, Family agonized. Younger Brother's phone was ringing unanswered. His cell phone was going immediately to voicemail. Oldest Sister decided that she now knew what it was like to lose a sibling.

And then Oldest Sister's phone rang...and on the other end was quiet sobbing, if it can be described as such. It was Younger Brother. He was not ok. He felt he should have been there to save Cousin...again. He drove to the scene of the crime the day after it happened, and saw the bloodflow down the driveway. He was not ok.

Oldest Sister got on a plane and went to Younger Brother, 1000 miles away. She saw his eyes. And knew change for the worse was imminent. Survivor's guilt is something that can morph into something very hideous and self-destructive. Younger Brother didn't talk for hours. And then, he said to Oldest Sister, "All I want is what you have. A good marriage mate who is also your best friend, and kids. I want that for myself."

Several months went by after Oldest Sister went home. One day, Younger Brother called and said him and Girlfriend were just minutes from Home. It was a surprise visit! The Family had 7 short but almost perfect days together. Photos were taken, moods were good, spirits were lifted...until it was time for them to leave. Girlfriend sparked a fight with Younger Brother, and he vowed to make her go the 1000 miles back home without him. He told Oldest Sister that he knew what he wanted, and it was to stay here with The Family and watch Niece and Nephew grow up.

Oldest Sister begged and pleaded for him to just go back with Girlfriend, then he could pack his stuff and come back the right way, without making her drive 1000 unfamiliar miles alone, crying and heartbroken. Oldest Sister regrets this conversation.

Because soon after they left, an Old Friend of Youngest Brother called Oldest Sister and said he would be in town and could he have his phone number to say "hey"? She gave it to him. She regrets answering this phone call.

A week passes with no word from Youngest Brother. Old Friend's father calls Dad and says, "My son is in jail. He was with your son. Do you know where your son is?"

Frantic calls are made. Details are sketchy. Bar, drinking, fighting, arrests. Phone calls go unanswered. Oldest Sister Googles the County Jail. Inputs Younger Brother's name. And The Family's world flips upside down. Just like that.

Younger Brother finally calls The Mom a few days later, crying. Blaming himself for Cousin's death, he had started drinking again. He went to a local bar with Old Friend that night. Joined in a fight in the parking lot. Cops came, everyone ran, except Old Friend and Younger Brother. He's crying, and of all the things he could say, he sobbed and said, "I'm so ashamed. I can't believe I'm going to miss Niece and Nephew growing up."

Oldest Sister doesn't appreciate Blame Games, or Playing the Martyr, but she does feel that she could have done things differently for a better outcome and a better childhood for her brother. She knows the teasing and her impatience of his "quirks" didn't help him at all. Oldest Sister knows Youngest Brother best. And this is what gives Oldest Sister the power, endurance and courage to be there for him and to support him through his consequences for using alcohol and fighting to try and get rid of his demons. For she knows what his potential is.

The Family is all Younger Brother has left now. The "friends" all disappeared. The Girlfriend bailed.  No one was left except The Family. It's a good family, and Younger Brother writes and tells them this in each letter he composes. He knows what he lost. He won't lose it again.

I know what his potential is. Because he is my baby brother.

Oil, Self portrait of Younger Brother, by Younger Brother, 2008.


sassy stephanie said...

I am sobbing over here, mascara down my cheeks! Thank you for sharing this story with us. Tell Younger Brother to keep his chin up b/c he has ALOT. People that love him no matter what.

La Belette Rouge said...

Oh, dear Corfu Cuz, it is so very sad. I am so sorry that this is not just a Grimms Fairytale but a true sorry that has really impacted everyone in your family. My heart aches for all of you. Your brother is so lucky to have such a wonderful and loving sister.

Le laquet said...

See you did it again - crying once more!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of your younger brother. I was moved to tears. I admire tremendously your courage in writing about him; he is someone whois loved and loving. His artwork is beautiful and poignant.

Praying for you and your family,


Tam said...

I have a blog you should VISIT Seriously....Dawn over at she is very open and honest about what is going on with her son JP who is going on Trial in her blog also. She is WONDERFULL!

Hang in there....hang in there!

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

Wow.. Thats pretty powerful stuff. I have tears flowing too. Never heard the whole story before. You can't blame yourself. He had choice's.. he just made bad ones. Sometimes you have no control over things. But You are a loving person and sister to him now when it counts. Time seems to go so fast these days and he will be home before you know it. Hang in there.
PS my word Verification it ..catie.
I am not being cat ie.. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow... I feel so sad... for you, for your brother, for everyone who's affected by this. My heart breaks, but through tough times can come incredible beauty. Praying for you and yours...

Tracy Griffin - Artist said...

Thank you for sharing this very personal post with us. I stopped by from SITS. This is such a sobering topic.

It is apparent that you will be with your brother every step of his journey.

I commend your bravery, love and compassion.

Remember to find someone to lean on yourself while helping him. While you're taking care of others - don't forget to take care of yourself. :)

With much prayer and love to you -

Denise said...

I feel so bad for you and your brother. I cant begin to imagine how hard all that must be.
I just found your blog this morning and was reading your cockroach stories and laughing so hard, then read this and it almost brought me to tears.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Sorry to make you sob, I'd rather make you cry from laughing :) Yes, Brother is very lucky to have a BIG supportive family, not many people in his situation do.

I, too, wish it was a Grimm's Fairy Tale. I do feel bad that I wasn't such a loving sister when we were little...but I do think I have made up for that since I was about 20 until now. I still feel bad tho, at how much we teased him.

Le Laquet,
Uh oh, if I keep making you cry you might not return! :) I'm working on some funny stuff now that I've "purged".

Thank you so much for visiting, commenting and your nice words. Yes, his artwork is beautiful isn't it? I am proud of him, and glad he has it inside there, and that he will have it when he gets out.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Thank you for the blog link. I will go visit it. I had been trying to find blogs of people who had loved ones incarcerated, but wasn't successful at finding but one or two.

Un-Cat ie Cris,lol
I know, HE made the bad choices. You're right. The only consolation I have is that he hasn't continued to make bad choices since being locked up, which is a constant struggle. Thankfully he still has that "scared to lie" OCD thing, so he confesses all these to me, the good, bad and ugly. And I can say that he hasn't gone looking for trouble in prison, and has creatively gotten himself OUT of trouble. He doesn't want to stay an inmate.

Mikki Roo,
Yes, you are totally correct, out of hard times something very good can come. I am convinced as of this moment that is true in this case.
Thank you so much for coming here and commenting!:)

Thank you for coming here and commenting! I promise, I will have more funny stories now that I've gone deep, gotten it out (for now)...I'm ready to be funny again :)

Anonymous said...

That is a really sad story CC; but you can't blame yourself. All older sisters and brothers tease their younger ones;its the way of the world. You are there for him and will be when he comes out. And clearly he is aware of that.

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog and you have blown me away with this post. How well you write, and with such emotion! My heart goes out to Younger Brother, you, and all your family. Be strong - and please keep writing!

Dawn said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I will keep your brother in my prayers. It sure isn't easy, is it?

Braja said...

Life. It's just what it is and it's hard sometimes. You ok?

Anonymous said...

Oh wow.
He is gorgous, and you can see the intelligence in his eyes.
I hope he realizes just how much he is worth now, as you do.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

thank you very much :) and yes, I think he's realizing now that he's very special and important to his family.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Completely Alienne, Pinklea, Braja and Dawn,
I just now noticed that my comments to you all NEVER POSTED! UGH...that is terrible! I had personal comments to each one of you.
I'll make it short and sweet this time....THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for your comments and support and sweetness....
(darn blogspot)

Marie said...

Hang in there ! You are very honest to share this story and very brave to support your brother.

Vicki said...

This story doubles my determination to make sure that my two girls are loving towards one another. Not that that's the single reason that Younger Brother has troubles. It is the main thing that I can kind of control though.

That must have been so hard to share. Thank you though.