My youngest brother came to visit me this weekend.
He is on an extended leave of absence from work following a mental break-down. At least that gave him the freedom to catch a ride with a friend and spend two and a half days just hanging out with me at my home.
He has a lot of pain and it isn’t hiding very well behind his shields of cynicism and bitterness. The chip on his shoulder is so big I wonder how there is any shoulder left. I can see the roots, deep inside his broken heart but I don’t think everyone can. The perks of being a sister I guess.
We had some good talks, about our brother getting married and how happy we are for him. How good D1’s girl is to him, and how we think they’ll make it. How we wished we had been better siblings to him and how we hope we’ll be able to continue to repair those cracks we made.
We talked about relationships. He hung out with S. for a few hours and said he seemed like a good guy, that he trusted my ability to choose a man. He said it must be nice to have a relationship that our mom didn’t have a problem with, where I didn’t have to fight with her to have my adult choices respected.
He spoke of his girl, of their life, of where they might go. I asked him if he thought they’d be together forever and he said they might be. We have problems, but who doesn’t? he asked. She loves me the best she knows how, and she’s learning how to be better. I wanted to ask him if that’s all he deserves, and if he loves her as best as he knows how or if he thinks he needs to learn to be better too, but I didn’t. Instead I listened as he talked to me.
I don’t know if I remember a lot of the words he spoke to me. I do remember how much pain there was in his whole being. He’s like a dog that’s been whipped, L. said. In his whole body, in his attitude, everything about him looks like he’s been broken and hasn’t been put back together yet. I nodded and held my own pain inside.
We went for walks and talked about life, me walking upwind so that the smoke from his cigarette would blow away from me. Watching him smoke was hard for me. It made him seem hardened somehow, like the thug he played as a child had come real. Like he didn’t give a damn, like his pain was all there was and he had no hope that it would ever change.
We spoke of how confusing it is when peace comes from a source that we were taught was wrong. How confusing it is when we learn that something we were told was out of bounds is completely within our grasp. We talked about how things can be right for one person and wrong for another. About how God is bigger than the mistakes of our parents and the church. I learned how cynical he is towards church and pastors.
We talked one evening about our mother. He used some of the exact phrasing that I had used in counselling three days before. It was a comfort to us both that we have the same problems with the same woman. It helped us to see that it isn’t in our heads. That the problems are real and solid because someone else felt them too.
It was a comfort to me to see that counselling has actually helped me to grow and learn to deal with my anger, pain and frustration. It filled me with calm to see that I used to be where D2 is now, full of pain and anger that I didn’t know what to do with, but I’m not anymore. It filled me hope to see that a person can learn to keep acknowledging the feelings, to put the responsibility for them on the right people, and to let it go and move on.
I told D2 that he should seriously think about going to counselling. He agreed with me. I hope he does it.
I have a lot of hopes for him. I hope that his choice to move back in with my parents is a good one. I hope that he can get what he needs from them, especially my mother. I hope that all of his pieces get put back where they belong and that he won’t always look so beaten down.
Maybe with enough hopes behind him, his pain will become easier to bear.