Friday, June 22, 2007

My Brother

At the end of my session this week I mentioned that I don’t know what to think about my brother anymore. I used to think I knew. Before therapy I thought I knew, but now things have changed.

The whole point of all of this is to acknowledge the events that happened, to unite with my younger self who withdrew and separated from life. To accept the emotions I felt but never showed. This, so when ‘triggers’ happen I don’t spiral. Nothing will blindside me. No more flashbacks that leave me dazed and confused and reaching for the Ambien.

Not that this is a flashback.

When I was younger, much younger, I adored my brother. He was absolutely everything I wanted to be. He was tall, he was strong, and he was the smartest big brother there ever was. I wanted to do everything he did. Most of the times he was annoyed. What boy wants a little girl around him all the time? But there were times we played and I loved it so much. I remember one time we took some thread and made a giant spiders web across his room. Half of it was so our mother couldn’t get in, but the rest was childish glee. Then we found we couldn’t get out, and tried crawling underneath it to the door. In all our other games he was my knight and saved me from certain doom.

At school he was my hero. Always the nerd, I was picked on. He’d handle every bully that came my way. I remember one time, after my parents divorced, when he stood between my father and I when my father swung something at me, maybe shoes, I don’t recall. But my brother took the bruise for it.

However, I also remember a lot of other stuff. Something shifted when I was in 6th grade, and he 8th. I remember rage. I had such rage toward him, toward my mother. The hatred in the household seethed out of every pore. We fought constantly. He threw me down stairs and I threw things at him. Once I threw a screwdriver that went through the window when he ducked. There was another fight that left me with a nice white scar on my leg. My mother lamented that it needed stitches (which it did not get) and whenever I shave I see it and remember that darkness.

In the beginning, he was my idol, my hero. Then he was my tormentor. He sided with my mother on everything. He’d pull me over his knee and spank me at my mother’s bequest. She enjoyed watching ‘her man’ discipline me, the unruly one. The one who wasn’t like them, who refused to cry. Who refused to let her control me.

The thing is, for so long I hated him because he ‘turned.’ All of the values I loved – his height (he sprouted to 6’1, I am 5’4) his strength, his intelligence, were used against me. I mentioned how he vowed to make me hated in school and the town, to make sure I had no friends. I hated him because he still wanted to love my mother, and to get on her good side. He’d ask me if I loved her, saying he didn’t and we could speak honestly, and if I did he’d turn on a recorder hidden in his pants pocket and play it for her later. He’d cut himself and say that I did it. Anything to align himself further with her. I wasn’t safe in any thought or deed.

But now, now I’m rethinking things. We parted ways many years ago when I started digging for the past, to fill in all these holes in my memory and discover what events I blacked out. I mean, if what I remember gives me nightmares, what lies in the darkness? He shunned me, told me not to call, that he can’t stand me because I don’t love our mother. He asked me point blank if I loved him and I couldn’t answer. But he did say he remembered getting examined after it came out about our father. Then he hung up.

That’s the thing. He was abused too, and I always say worse than me because it was sexual. In all the psychology texts there are ways that children react to trauma. I am the classic case of dissociation. I withdrew. I found a place within myself that was for me alone and hid there, emotionless. “They will never take me!” I thought. Somehow, some part of me found this way of survival. When my outer life was dying I found an inner one. My brother began to identify with the abuser. His way of survival was to do what was asked of him, even if it meant hurting others. The Patty Hearst syndrome – the more abuse my mother doled out the more he seemed to love and obey her.

I was sickened that after he ‘grew up’ he still lived with our mother. While I was in college he, the older brother, the ‘smart’ one, the ‘strong’ one, the one revered in the family was at home and jobless. My mother constantly gave him money while I struggled to pay for my education. I looked at him with disgust for not getting out as soon as he could, for loving her. For choosing her over me, the one who wanted a chance to love without pain.

But how can I hate him? He, like me, was trying to survive a horrid ordeal. He adapted to the situation the way he could, and I adapted my own way. We were both so busy saving ourselves and, as mere children, we barely had the capacity to do that let alone each other. I can’t place any burden of familial affection on him when we were, in essence, living in a war zone. I can’t condemn him when I, myself, withdrew from him. I’m sure it was just as confusing to find his sister become a ‘robot’ as he called me, as it was to for me to have him become a monster.

Last I heard he was accepted back into the military as an infantryman. I’ll admit, every time I hear that more soldiers have been killed overseas I scour the papers for names. But I don’t know how I’d feel if I saw his. I’m not sure I’d cry. It would be sad, that he escaped one war only to be killed in another, that he never got a chance to live outside of such high stress conditions. Also, when I say my prayers, I still end them with:

“God bless mommy and daddy, Eddie, the whole family, all my friends, and all the cats and dogs in the world”

A holdover from when my mother first taught me how to pray. No matter what else I pray for at night, I can’t end it without the above line. The funny thing is, he changed his first name when he was around eleven or twelve years old. But that’s who I still pray for, the boy that was once my brother. The child that loved me and tried. The big brother that was my hero.

I have no idea what I think about all of this. I just know that I do think about it.


heavenabove said...

I believe you are doing the best you can do with your brother at this time. You already realize he learned to identify with his abuser as a means of his own survival. It appears as though he is not ready to deal with the past yet but when he is, be there. He will need you.

I was thinking maybe he hung up on you because he is not ready to deal with everything yet and he is only using your not loving your mother as an excuse. For sure, inside he is hurting.

Victorya said...

It's sad to think of him as hurting. I think he blocked out a lot more than I did, or maybe I hope he did. I'm not sure.

I realize he may never want to deal with what happened, and that I am a symbol or at least a reminder of the life we lived. Who knows? I have to accept his decisions, and respect them. I know I have a hard time talking to my grandmother because she just apologizes every call for not helping more and I start to cry. There is just so much guilt and shame that built up over the years.