Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Memory of My Brother Phil

Philip A. Rabenau, Jr.
February 14, 1940 - May 27, 2009

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.


Akelamalu said...

That's a fine tribute to your brother Raven. You may have been estranged for many years but it's obvious that you loved him. x

quilly said...

Raven, your love for your brother shines through your words despite the pain.

My Aunt did something so horrible that she was estranged from the family for almost 30 years. When I was told she had passed away, I wasn't certain how I felt. No, a couple of years later, I can tell you that I have finally let go of the pain, and can remember the good things. It doesn't correct the bad, but it does make it easier to live with. I wish for you the same experience with your brother's memory.

May he -- and your memories of him -- rest in peace.

SouthLakesMom said...

Raven, a loss is a loss and must be grieved. Your words show the grief of the estrangement as well as the grief of loss of him now. Perhaps his death will allow you to finish the grieving process that started with the estrangement. Please keep writing about it -- if not for others, than for yourself, so you can heal. Shalom.

Diana said...

It is a loving tribute. Thank you for sharing the pictures and the fun memories.

Unknown said...

You've done a great job here...My condolences.

Nessa said...

I am sorry for your loss. Your brother had a great smile. You can still love someone that is impossible to be around.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Raven,
I am sorry for your loss and the loss that preceeded it. You are so right that our family members shape our lives whether for good or not. I lost my estranged Dad to Alzheimers this year. As he was losing his mind, he became gentle- odd that. It is strange trying to figure out how we feel. It is a loss but a different kind... HUGS to you, my sweet friend.

Finding Pam said...

Raven, well spoken words about your brother. Sometimes we don't always like our siblings, but we love them inspite on themselves.

Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt part of your life. That could not have been easy to do.

Hugs and take care. Pam

gabrielle said...

This was a beautiful tribute to your brother and to the complex relationship you had with him. I can see that Phil was a hard person to love. Raven, your pain illuminates your love.

We have much to learn from the animals we love about surrender, pure and simple gifts of the heart.

I wish you the peace of the infinite tide, the comfort of all you have invited in.

SMM said...

This is a loving tribute in memory of your brother Raven. Your love for him shines through in every word, despite the fact that he was a difficult person to be with and you were estranged.

I wish you and you family have the strength to deal with your loss.

DawnTreader said...

Raven, sorry to hear about your loss! I will be returning to this post later to read it properly. I really only checked in now to copy a link... Such a strange feeling to land on an In Memory post, because my own mother died only the day before!! I wrote a short announcement yesterday evening on my blog. This morning I'm posting my wordzzle story early, decided to go ahead since I wrote it last weekend, well before the events later in the week, only had to copy it over to the blog now. Tomorrow I know I won't have time, and after that - well, it's one day at a time right now!

Dianne said...

I love what quilly said - may he - and your memories of him - rest in peace.

I think it is harder to let go of those with whom we have had difficult, painful relationships - I remember when my Dad died I went through a phase of re-writing history in my head and what if'ing. I guess it's natural.

You are one of the most thoughtful, kindest people I have ever encountered and I hope you turn that on to yourself.

All my love Raven

Hilary said...

I'm sorry for your loss, at this time and through your life. Wishing you peace and perspective.

Lu' said...

What a beautiful post. I am sorry for your loss. I don't want to imagine how I would feel when my Brother... Such great photos you posted suprising what anger lurked behind those smiling eyes.

Anonymous said...

My sincere coldolences, Raven.

I lost a brother in March 2008. John was only 48 years old. He had been estranged from the family for about 20 years. I hadn't seen or talked to him for 17 years when he died. My 3 sisters and I were numb, as were the remaining 3 brothers. We didn't know how we felt. Odd. Mostly, I grieved for my elderly parents, who were then 72 and 78. They had just lost their oldest son. Both Janice (My Bellavia) and I wrote Haiku for him. The prompt from OSI seemed to fit. In the end, we all found ourselves recalling our childhood years, before all the bad stuff. That is how we choose to remember him.

I know in time you will find your way, too.

Ron said...

Hi Raven~

As I read this beautiful tribute, it was truly the LOVE you felt for your brother that shined through. And I believe it's that love...that will heal.

Thank you for sharing, Raven.

Sending Reiki your way.


Vinny "Bond" Marini said...


What a lovely eulogy for your brother.

I cam by from Dianne's to show you the bloggosphere is a warm friendly place.

Sylvia K said...

This is a very moving and beautiful tribute to your brother and all the more so because you had been estranged for so long. The love you felt for him shines through in spite of the pain from the past. And that is what love is all about.

I came here from Dianne's also. I feel so much love and support in this blogging world of ours and it is certainly all there for you today.

Peace and love to you.

Anonymous said...

Raven I'm so sorry to hear about your brother passing. You know while we are living we tend to do things, like what happened between you and your brother, but deep down, our love, respect and friendship with others is always present. You will always have the memories with you and he will be with you forever in your heart. This was a wonderful tribute and you are an awesome woman. Take care my friend :) Aloha

Amber Star said...

I saw on Quilly's blog that your brother has died. I'm so sorry for the hole left in your life that you didn't even know was there until now. You may have been estranged, but you loved him on many levels....and had issues with him, too. You know best how to grieve for him and how to console yourself.

Betty said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I hope you can remember the good and let the bad go.

Linda Reeder said...

Dianne sent me to acknowledge your pain and send comfort. What a complex relationship you have had with your brother. I have noted time and time again that there is a fine line between genius and maddness. It can be hard to balance on that edge.
It must be comforting for you to know that, even though you had to separate yourself from him, he did have friends and caretakers who helped him along.
Be at peace. said...

Thomas Wolfe wrote the following:
Something has spoken to me in the night, burning the tapers of the waning year: something has spoken in the night, and told me I shall die. I know not where.

"To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing:
to lose the life you have, for greater life:
to leave the friends you loved for greater loving:
to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth --

" -- Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending - a wind is rising and the rivers flow.""

I believe that when we pass we continue on until at last we find our oneness with God.

Your "real" brother was a child of Love as you are and as we all are. Hold the good him in your heart and let the other go. Bless you. j

annies home said...

I know where your heart was always wanting possibly needing to take care of him I am like that very much with my younger brother. We have great memories that we share but often do not stay together alot because of his actions. So I say to you sweet lady remember the good parts and put aside the bad part for your own sake

Travis Cody said...

It's difficult to know how to comment, so I will simply say that I'm very sorry to hear of your loss.

RA said...

Hi Raven, I came from Thom's blog to send you my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to you and your family. I think you made the right choice by remembering the good and trying to let go of the bad. This is a wonderful post. Hopefully peace will be upon all of you.

Jientje said...

I hope your brother finds his peace now. You wrote a very moving tribute for him, you told the good and the bad. It speaks of love for him, despite what happened.
Everything that happens in our lives, happens for a reason, and it shapes us into the persons we are. Peace, Raven.

Richard said...


Sorry to learn of the death of your brother. Nothing said can replace him or his memory. Thanks for sharing your memories of him with us.

My condolences for you and your family in your time of loss.


Jenny said...

Raven I am very sorry to read about your brothers passing. You have written a lovely eulogy to him and it shows that even tho you were estranged from him all these years, there is still love for him in your heart.

Peace be with you and your family in this time of sadness.

CG said...

I am sorry to hear of your brother's death. Your post was really moving. I have a difficult relationship with my own brother and have learned I need to keep him at a distance for my own sanity. I'm glad you have happy memories of the past and I pray your brother is at peace and reunited with his feline friend!

Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

Sorry to hear about your loss Raven, reading this you spoke of your love for your brother. Even though he is gone now, you still have your memories to keep you going.

Thom asked us to stop by with our condolences, when time passes please stop by the blog, it will give you a laugh and maybe take your mind off of things.


the walking man said...

May your brother sleep quietly and comfortably in the house of his ancestors. And as time fades may it take with it the memories of the estrangement leaving behind thoughts of roller derby days and "Why Miss Jones, you're beautiful!"

Anuja said...

I am sorry for your loss..Here is something that I have always found comforting:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

"Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

Henry Van Dyke

Dr.John said...

Family is something we have no control over. We end up loving them even when they aren't so nice. You did well at pointing out the good memories as well as the bad. I think it is the best tribute you can give.

Felisol said...

Dear Raven,
We all see through a glass darkly down here, never understanding the full picture.
Your brother for good and for worse is dead.
What wrong he may have done to you, he now understands fully.
God have mercy on his soul.

Social intelligence is not compatible to one's IQ.
It's formed by heritage, gens, but perhaps foremost by upbringing and environment.
I'm sad for you, and even more for your late brother. What a waste.

I am glad you can see there was a core of genuine love in him. You cannot fool a cat.

I pray that your wounds may heal. I am a realist, therefore I believe in wonders.

I'm drinking yogi tea for my soar throat.
On each bag is a different quote.
The one for today,
"We are spiritual beings having a human experience."

I hope the sum of your experiences will make you feel not only wise, but well.

I'm sending you God's blessings.
From Felisol

shelly said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Raven. What you wrote was beautiful and touching...a lovely balance of honesty and caring.
Thanks for sharing it with us, what you wrote is a window for all of us who have challenges with family...for those of us who have chosen to love our siblings from afar.
Sending you my best.

Robin said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Raven - for all the losses. For the loss of your brother now, but also for the loss of what might have been, what could have been, and for the loss of your sister.

I'll be holding you close in my heart.

San said...

Raven, I'm sorry for your loss, but I congratulate you on your hard-won wisdom. You have put your brother, with his talents and weaknesses, in the proper light. He's someone who helped you form yourself into a stronger, wiser person.

Wishing Phil peace. And you too. (Although I believe you've reached that already.)

CJ said...

This was so beautifully written.

Death is hard no matter how much we loved someone or how long ago we saw him/her. I think we've all lost someone for whom our feelings were mixed, sort of like that friend we like, but only in short doses.

We all deal with grief differently. I hope you can deal with yours in a way that brings you peace and comfort.

raino said...

i'm with quilly and see where you love for your brother comes through, even in your anger and hate. nicely written.

sorry for your loss.

Raven said...

Thank you to everyone for your kind words. Phil's death has stirred my anger somewhat from the corner of my mind where it has been sleeping. I am refighting old wars now that the enemy is dead.

Raino - I have plenty of anger towards my brother, but I have never hated him. It would have been much easier if I did.

Geraldine said...

I agree with the comments above; you've written a wonderful tribute to your brother Raven. SOunds like you both have had many challenges over the years. I have an older brother who I adored when I was younger, now I can't stand being in the same room with him. I understand and share your pain at so much loss.

May your brother rest in peace,

Many hugs, G

Terry said...

dear raven...i was just at dianne's where i was reading about your brohter.
i feel sad for you and i think that this tribute that you made for him is very good.
a true and yet kind one it is.
you have a very caring heart raven.
it is so neat about your mentioning phil's cat, shawn.
i was just after telling dianne that if a cat likes a person that person can be trusted.
did you know raven that you tube has a lot of the old 50's shows that we used to watch?
i just went there and found out that they have full episodes of sky king.

please accept my condolences dear terry

you wrote a real good post about your brother.

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