My Brother, My Pain

It was winter, I remember that.

I came home from school that day and wondered where everyone was. Where was everyone? It wasn’t that unusual to find no one home when I came home from school; and I never saw my brother on the bus coming home from school. It didn’t occur to me to be that upset about having the house to myself as I made myself a snack, set myself up on the loveseat with my Honors History homework and turned on “Another World” and then later, “General Hospital”. Homework took up hours these days what with my Honors History and Geometry classes. I didn’t have English or Science right now which made the load lighter, but French 2 with the new teacher was also kicking my rear. Plus there was practicing…in order to do well in band and hold a respectable place in the flute section I was having to put in time pretty much every day practicing.

The level work meant that for several hours that day, I had no idea that my life was about to change dramatically.

Finally, my mother came home. A little earlier than usual, which always aroused suspicion on my part. My mother was hardly ever home before 7 or 8 pm on a weeknight. She generally decided now to wait out rush hour and get more work done, which led to a shorter commute. We never had a family dinner unless it was on the weekends.

She wasn’t carrying her briefcase, which also put up my dander. Her heavy shoulder briefcase was part of the headache and back trouble she was plagued with, because it was always present there on her shoulder. But it was missing.

“Your brother is back in the hospital,” she told me. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. My brother was hardly ever present at home, and when he was, he was holed up in his room, nicknamed “The Cave”. The last time he went, he had threatened to kill himself. This time, they’d found drugs at school, and then again in his room. I stared at her blankly, feeling little except relief that I was going to breathe easier in my own home over the next few days.

“How long?” I asked.

“He won’t be coming back here to live,” she replied slowly. “Your father has agreed to take custody of him.”

Whoa. This was huge. My father, whose presence had dwindled greatly in our lives as my brother’s issues escalated, had always maintained that he couldn’t possibly assume custody of my brother. “Why? What’s changed? The fourth time is the charm?” I bitterly asked. I wasn’t exactly impressed with my father’s altruism at this point. I’d been sent away last summer to save me from my brother’s outbursts. He’d broken my wrist, hit me more times than I could count, put holes in walls and doors and stolen from all of us to the point of putting our whole house under lock and key.

“I guess he decided enough was enough. He’s going to send him to a boarding school.”

Ah, there it was. He wouldn’t have him live in the house he shared with his life partner in the upscale part of suburbia. That made more sense. I had lots of questions, but they all vanished when I looked at my mom’s face.

She wasn’t crying, but she was as close as I’d seen her throughout all of this. “I’m sorry, Mom.” At the end of the day, through it all, this was her kid. Despite everything he’d done to her, done to our family, she still loved him and she was heartbroken that it had come to this. It wasn’t going to get fixed, it wasn’t going to get better. She had to admit defeat.

“So am I,” she answered. “For everything.”


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