Thursday, May 28, 2009
In Memory of My Brother Phil
After I posted the woodpecker photos below, I was going to go get Quilly's words and do her Thursday challenge, but on the way to do that, I received news that my older brother died last night and even though I don't entirely know what I feel about that, I felt I need to acknowledge his passing.
My brother, Phil, and I have been estranged for the past 21 years. I haven't spoken with or seen him in 19 years. He was a genius. His IQ was 162. He was handsome, charming. When I was young... and well into adulthood, I adored him. I was raised in the family school of denial of how mean and troubled he was, trained to make excuses for his temper tantrums and his malevolence. Although he was 7 and a half years older than me, I had in many ways been the older sibling for our whole lives. He lived across the street from me when I lived in NYC. When his wife fled screaming from their marriage, I fed him every night for the first weeks, tapering off slowly as he adjusted to being alone. When he broke his wrist, I shopped for him, cooked meals for him, entertained him. He was introduced to all my friends, included in all my social gatherings. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1978, I was the go to person, the care taker. I called him daily - sometimes twice or thrice daily - to check on him. I also became increasingly aware of how destructive he was to me. It took me 12 years of therapy to recognize that he did not have my best interests at heart and to disconnect myself from the pain of knowing him because I had been trained to negate my own pain. My sister's murder cracked that armor open.
My brother did not use his genius for good. Like me, he was, I think, empathic. But - consciously or unconsciously - he used people's vulnerabilities, their emotions against them. Wow, some memorial piece this is, eh? Perhaps some day I will write more about this. Today is not really the day for it.
There are happy memories from younger days. As I said, my brother was handsome and charming. He could be very funny. Much to my mother's dismay, we used to run down the halls of the house banging into each other playing "Roller Derby." I think I was always Tuffy Bersune... That's a name I remember anyway. "Round and round and round at the roller derby," we would run singing. Sometimes he would pretend he was a robot and walk stiff-legged down the hallway arms stretched out in front of him, intoning in a monotone voice... "Kill, Tobar... Kill." This was the 1950s. I'm sure Tobar had arisen from some movie or tv show. We did our own version of the Sky King show (another 50s program - a modern "cowboy" - for those of you too young to remember these things). Our characters were Earth Queen and Nickle as I recall. When I was 8 and started wearing glasses, when I would take them off, he'd do a take-off on the typical tvs and movies of the day and declare, "Why Miss Jones, you're beautiful!" (So amazing how dumb the men in these programs were. Miss Jones had a body to die for and was drop dead gorgeous but because she wore glasses they totally missed those other things....)
In the end, everyone and everything in our life - the good and the bad - molds us into who we are, who we become. My brother has been a powerful force in my life. Not always a happy force, not always a force for good. But he helped form me, for better or worse, into the person I am today. Although I haven't spoken with him, I have kept track of him. He has been very ill these past years, living in a nursing home. He almost died a few years back and has not had much quality of life. I'm glad that he had some very kind and faithful friends who stood by him and spent time and energy watching over him in the final years of his life and who helped him put his affairs in order before he died.
He is in God's arms now and hopefully at peace. Maybe he's getting a chance to hug his kitty Shawn again. That kitty loved Phil. Although Shawn was very ill, my brother was having a hard time accepting that he was going to die. The night that Phil made the decision to put Shawn to sleep, he curled up next to my brother and let go of his life on his own terms as they slept. I guess if a cat can love you that much, you can't be all bad.
Rest well, big brother.