Well, here I am again, face to face with my own resilience. Do you know that I am absolutely, positively 100% fine? I could not have imagined at the time of my last post that a few weeks down the road I would not only be done crying (about that. I’ll always be crying about something. I ain’t afraid to catch feels. They wrote a song about it, you know), but actually be thriving, so thrilled with the nature of my life, I can barely stop singing and smiling.
Anyway, I never heard from that particular fellow again, so you get over it a bit and you move on. And when you do, you find a hundred million wonderful things. Seriously. I have met some of the most incredible women in the last few months, and I am having an absolute blast cultivating these new friendships. Plus, I get to spend my days waiting on people whom I generally adore, and enjoying the challenge of trying to figure out how best to balance myself in connection to those few I do not particularly adore, and I’m just not sure when I’ve ever had so much fun.
But the main thing right now that amazes me is my brother.
As you may recall, I have a delightful and adorable apartment – unfortunately full of gnats at the moment. GOD IN HEAVEN, WHY ARE THERE EVEN GNATS AT ALL?? They are so annoying. Apparently they are bad this year. They’re driving me insane. This morning I Googled how to get rid of them. Now there are bowls of apple cider vinegar with dish soap in it all over the house, slowly filling up with dead gnats. Gross. Which makes me wonder what the heck we did before we could just Google our every question and find the answer, because I never in a million years would have put dish soap in apple cider vinegar in response to this insect onslaught, but I guess I’ll just be glad I didn’t have to deal with it back then – and my baby brother lives with me in said delightful, adorable apartment.
The thing about my baby brother is that he was quite literally a baby when I moved out of the house. Ten months old on the day of my wedding. He has no recollection at all of us ever living in the same house as siblings like all the rest of us have. And then, when he was thirteen, I was essentially disowned on account of that whole religion thing, so he and I didn’t speak with any regularity for the intervening eight years.
Last year, he left the religion as well, so we reconnected, and the way things fell together when I moved back home, we ended up roommates.
It’s an odd thing to admit to yourself that you really don’t know your own sibling. We have conversations at times, and I have a whole separate monologue playing in my head that goes a little like this: “Wait, he is a man. Like, a grown ass man. How is this possible? I thought he was five. Seriously, weren’t you just five years old ten minutes ago? What is happening?? This is weird.”
It’s a fun thing, mostly. We get along tremendously. It’s fun to notice how often I’m already walking through the door hoping he is home so I can tell him all about whatever happened that day. And every now and again when he has a free minute and he texts to see if I want to hang out, it makes me smile. It’s nice to have a little brother. Though I realized the other day that people tend to assume he is my son. Weird. I mean, I’m twenty years older than him, so it’s not an unreasonable assumption, it just makes me laugh.
Anyway, the thing that I’m learning from this reconnection is that persons should not underestimate their power to do good for each other in unexpected ways.
Over the course of a rather inconsistent relationship, my brother has twice done things that healed me in very difficult situations. He, of course, did not know this. Turns out, I also did that for him, completely unaware of the fact.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I miscarried. The pregnancy had not been planned, and I had only known I was pregnant for a week, but I was absolutely destroyed. It was an entirely different sort of grief than I had ever experienced, and I honestly thought I would never be okay again.
A couple of months later, I attended a social function of some sort. I don’t remember what it was, but my whole family was there. I was sitting at a table with my dad and my baby brother, who was maybe four or five at the time, and dad was talking to some other person. In the course of their conversation, they made mention of children or babies on some level. It didn’t really register with me, but Baby Brother looked up at me and said,
“I loved that baby.”
“What baby?” I asked him.
“The one that died,” he said, nodding toward me.
I immediately started sobbing. I had to excuse myself from the party and go sit in the car a while until I got myself together, but ultimately, that one comment did so much to heal me. I suppose Mom must have explained to him why we had all thought I was going to have a baby, and now I wasn’t. I hadn’t realized how alone I felt until he made that comment. I knew, of course, that any and all of my people were sad for me, but until this tiny boy made this completely innocent comment, I hadn’t realized how important it was to know that someone was sad with me. That the loss wasn’t just mine, but someone else was sharing it too. I’m sure there were other people who felt the loss. My parents, certainly. My husband, probably. But Brother was the first one to communicate it so directly.
It was life-changing, honestly. Not just because it helped me heal from my own grief, but fifteen years later, it is still the thing I draw on when I’m looking to comfort someone else. Being sad with you is a totally different thing than being sad for you.
A few years later, I was getting divorced. By then, Brother was thirteen. Being in a very conservative religious community, just about everyone I knew felt completely justified in judging the heck out of my personal choices. My dad, whom I had been very close to, refused to speak to me at all. Sitting in the same room, even once at the same fucking table, he’d just sit and pretend I wasn’t there. I was so mad at him, I could barely stand it.
I’m getting set to file my papers, and I want nothing more than to get my ex-husband’s name off of me. Seriously. Gross. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through that, but … yuck. Anyway, all of a sudden, I realize, I’m getting my husband’s name off of me, but I’m taking back my dad’s. I was so disgusted with him at the time, that didn’t feel any better to me. I was honestly thinking about making up a new name for myself altogether. Or maybe just going to one name, like Cher or Madonna. But then I remembered I’m not famous and that probably doesn’t really work in normal life.
“Joe. Just call me Joe.’ As if you were one of those stupid 22-year-old girls with no last name. ‘Hi, I’m Kimberley.’ ‘Hi, I’m Janice.’ Don’t they know you’re supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses.”
You’ve Got Mail is probably the best movie ever.
Anyway, I was venting one day to my mom about how I wanted the ex’s name off me, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to take dad’s name either since he was being such a dumbass, in my opinion, (I adore my father. We rarely speak, because he’s still all hung up on his dumbassery, but I’m less upset about it now. He means to be a good man, I think) and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Brother said, “Take my name instead.”
“Just take my name. Not dad’s. Mine. And mom’s. And Other Brother’s.”
And in that moment, I realized I was indeed being a bit ridiculous, wasn’t I? It wasn’t about my dad. It was about my family. And so I took my maiden name back, and I took it back with pride, which was quite nice, actually.
Now, you’ll notice that Brother has managed to impact my life through insights and wisdom far beyond his years. It’s impressive to me to this day. I wish I could say the same for me. Unfortunately, I managed to make an impression on my kid brother by being a total asshole. Groan. SUCH. A. DORK.
For a while a number of years ago, I dealt with some symptoms of MCS. It wasn’t severe, and it did eventually subside (thank heaven), but for a minute it was weird. I had enormous mood swings when exposed to certain chemicals or fragrances. Silly string, for whatever mysterious reason, caused me to become immediately fucking furious. What the heck is that about?
My dad had a party at his house one night, and the kids started with the silly string. Dear Lord. I about lost my mind. I decided to go home, but my sister begged me not to. So we went into a back room and hung out by ourselves until the kids had gotten past the silly string and moved on to something else. As the party wound down, I was still a bit on edge, but managing. Eventually the only people left were sitting around the table playing cards. One of whom was Brother, about nine or ten at the time, and another of whom was a certain teenaged friend of the family who had a knack for annoying the hell out of me by tormenting smaller kids. He was on my brother’s case all night. It was driving me nuts. Finally, I snapped.
“Dude! Would you stop being such a jackass, and leave him alone!?! I swear to God, if you don’t get off his case, I am going to put your head through the wall!”
Generally speaking, I am a person who makes great threats of physical violence. “I’m gonna punch you in the throat.” “I am gonna rip your arms off.” “Keep it up. I’m going to tear out all your hair and stick it in your eye.” Whatever. I don’t know why I do this. It’s a thing. Everyone knows I’m not actually going to follow through on this stuff. It’s just a thing I do.
Except when there’s silly string.
Jackass did not stop. No sooner had I finished speaking than he resumed tormenting my little brother. As mouths hung open and eyes widened all around the table, I put that kid in a fucking headlock, drug him from his chair, and threw him headfirst into the wall as hard as I possibly could. He bounced off into my dad’s china hutch, which thankfully was sturdier than it looked, and nothing broke.
I returned to my chair.
Would you like to guess what happened next? If you guessed that Jackass returned to the table and immediately mocked my brother again, you guessed right. Meanwhile, everyone at the table is wondering what the hell my problem is.
The next day, I was calmed down and back to normal and MORTIFIED over how I had acted. I apologized profusely to Jackass, who quite literally could not have cared less. I had to remind him of what I had done, because he didn’t even know what I was apologizing for, and even then he only laughed. But seriously. I do not act like that. I was humiliated.
For years, I have been embarrassed by this event. I mean, it’s funny, but it’s so embarrassing. What a jerk! I don’t know how many times I wished I could go back and erase that evening.
In the course of the last few months, Brother and I have been comparing memories of younger days, and we came across that one. This time, in context. That was right around the time my parents divorced. Unbeknownst to me, both of my parents were so caught up in their own turmoil and issues that Brother felt very pushed aside and not particularly cared for. When I mentioned the above, I framed it as I usually do, laughing at myself for being such a raging idiot. When I asked him if he remembered it, he said:
“Yes. It was one of the only times I felt like someone actually gave a shit about me.”
Well, that puts a whole different spin on the thing, doesn’t it? I mean, had I known the full reality of what he was going through at the time, I’d have liked to find a way to let him know he was loved without making a total ass of myself, but since I didn’t, I’m glad to at least have made the point in a memorable way.
I think it is just beautiful to notice how much we can help each other through life just by being ourselves. Our wise, insightful selves or our idiot, asshole selves. Keep it up, folks.