Friday, October 7, 2011

How I Failed My Little Brother

Dozens of unfinished blog posts sit idly in my computer’s storage. I don’t have the words to finish them. Lately I’ve just felt so creatively numb. I’d like to write somthing cute and clever, or hard hitting and serious, but it seems that all I can think about is my brother. My 17-year-old brother texted me at work 2 days ago and asked me when he would see me again. We don’t talk much these days, so it was a surprise to hear from him.

I replied:

“Are you coming to the birthday party next week?”
“I don’t know… I don’t really care. I really really hate my house, my parents, and my life.”
I remember thinking those exact words. I remember that depression. I remember hoping I would die every night when I fell asleep.

I got online right then and there and found him a cheap ticket to my town.

He’s on his way here right now. I’m going to pick him up at 11. As the time ticks on, I’m getting jittery. Being around him brings back so many memories. Up until around age 11, I shared a room with my just-older sister and we were best friends. But when mom and dad started letting her stay up an hour later than me, I started sneaking into my brother’s room after lights out to talk. He slept on the top bunk and one of my baby brothers was on the bottom. I would sit on the floor across the room and we would talk and talk. We cracked jokes and made fun of each other, I teased him about girls and he called me names. We geeked out about star wars ALL the time. I was (and am) an avid star wars fan and my brother and I have read all the books. About once a week, dad would catch me in the boy’s room after lights-out and we would both get spanked. My brother always got it worse than I did. I’d lay low for a couple days, but before long I was in his room again every night.

All the way through high school I found myself back on that familiar patch of carpet at night, talking to my brother about everything and nothing. He was the only one who knew where I was really going those weekends in the summer before college. I talked to him more than anyone else in my life, but when I left for college that August, I think I forgot to say goodbye. Just this week I’ve been realizing how badly I neglected our friendship. It makes my eyes sting and my stomach sick to think of him there at home, with suddenly no one who wanted to listen.

I asked my brother the other day if he and my dad have been talking at all lately. He said no. They never speak. My dad told me that he has “given up on him.” He rolled his eyes in disgust. “If he wants to be an idiot, he can. I give up.” I cringed when I heard him say that. Of course he doesn’t want to talk to you dad, you were a terrible father to him.  The only time my dad ever shouted was when he was correcting my brother. I remember him roaring “Good God Boy! When are you gonna GROW UP!” My brother got slapped, pushed, shoved, grabbed, pulled, restrained, and beat on a regular basis. I remember the look in my dad’s eyes whenever my brother did something wrong. He would fly into a rage. I was terrified that one day he would turn that glare on me; which, eventually, he did.

My brother was fun-loving, mischievous, and silly as a child. He loved to cook and play pirates and soldiers. As he grew older however, he developed a serious anger problem. Our parents never treated him with respect and he learned to defy them bravely. He disobeyed more than any of the rest of us. I remember him leaving the house and walking for hours in the dark and cold without a coat. My dad refused to go after him even though he was only 12 at the time. “He’ll come back when he gets hungry.” My brother has fallen into drugs and alcohol in the last couple years since I left. I’m pretty sure he is depressed as well. I don’t know what to do. I love him so much, but he is damaged to the point where he can’t even say he loves me too.

I am hoping I can use this weekend to reconnect with my brother. He was my best friend once. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him anymore, but I imagine that deep down under that shell of indifference and gloom, my fun-loving, silly brother is somehow still there. If I could go back in time, I would hug him a little harder on my way out that door. I would call him from college every week, tell him about my life and ask him about his. I would tell him first about the Boyfriend who would become my Husband. I would have sent him a card on his birthday, and I would have told him I love him a whole lot more.

I know I can’t take back those mistakes and missed opportunities. But I know I can at least start over, and that’s what I intend to do.


  1. If there's anything I can do to help, email me at

  2. I hope this weekend turns out well for you both. :)

  3. My heart goes out to you and your brother. He sounds like he needs good friends and lots of support to start a new life - to define himself away from your parents. I hope he can get some good quality counselling. I hope you can reach him. He sounds like my eldest boy (age 6) - mischievious, fun loving and silly and into playing soldiers - my heart breaks to think of such a person being treated in the way you describe. Sounds like he needs to escape and someone to hold his hand.
    Big hugs to you both x

  4. Also, please dont feel like you have failed him - i'm sure when you left it was all you could do to manage your own issues or whatever you want to call it (cant quite get the right word!) Sometimes there is just no space in us to reach out to others when we are so overwhlemed ourselves. I'm sure you must have just needed, so desperately, that time to be free yourself. Maybe now, you have a little more strength TO reach out to him. Good luck, if i still believed in a god i would pray for you both :0) x

  5. It's so sad, and so hard to see people you love so much be shut down over and over by the same people who told you you couldn't succeed. Try not to feel as though this is your fault, that's been a huge burden for me to let go of, I was a child, I could not change them. I am getting to the point where I feel that I am strong enough to engage with sibling more without reversion, and I hope to do just that.

  6. It's awfully late to be commenting on this, but I really hope the weekend went well.

    And if it didn't, please forgive yourself. You were carrying an very heavy load indeed when you didn't reach out to him.

  7. only through pain you will understand true peace. know pain , accept pain, understand pain.

  8. I hope that weekend was a sweet reconnection for you both. You can't save your siblings. You don't have that much power. I had to learn this one sibling at a time. It's heart breaking. I still don't know what the answer is. I think as the only adult who cares and isn't abusive, I had some responsibility to try to help, and yet I'm a sister. I don't have parental power. I think I have the most power as a whiteness to our abuse. I won't forget what happened to us. I was in a little-mother role growing up, and it's hard to figure out what a sibling is, but maybe an older sibling is a holder of memories and a place to crash in a guest room when things are really bad.