I can still remember my deep disappointment that the promise of a baby brother was taking so long to materialize. When he did finally come home, there was nothing better than dragging this baby around, dressing him up and pretending to feed him.
Sadly, our parents both passed away unexpectedly within a short period of time. My brother came to live with me and my husband, and we became his primary caregivers. I had always known this day would come, but it was never really discussed as it was a painful and seemingly fictitious conversation that I wanted to avoid.
As siblings, you are close because of circumstance, not necessarily choice. You are honouring family values and unspoken parental wishes but you also have your own to consider. You walk the grey line of ethical decision making every day and in everything that you do.
I wonder continually: “Is this decision about him, or about me?”
I have shifted a lot of energy that was focused on my own life to my brother’s life. I organize, plan, arrange, boss and frankly dictate so much of my brother’s life. I feel I have to do it this way because I am new to this job and I don’t know how else to do it. If I throw everything I have into it, everything will be all right, right?
Over the last year I’ve learned that even the mightiest of us super sisters can’t make pain go away, do everything right or be wholly responsible for creating a good life for my brother.
I know that the pain my brother has dealt with in a lifetime has superseded my own. I have not faced discrimination and prejudice daily. I have been able to make my own choices, accumulate assets, enjoy good health, have many friends and do so many other things I take for granted. My brother has watched all of this and wondered why life has been different for him. When our parents died, super sister was all over his pain, trying to scrub it off his life because that is what seemed fair.
So instead, I provided an endless roster of tonics: from tubs of ice cream to a new cat, from singing childhood songs to taking him on an exotic trip. On a daily basis he got a speech about what our mother and father would have wanted for him, how he shouldn’t be sad, how he has so many good things in his life. One day he told me: “Leave me alone.” The shine fell off my super sister costume that day. After that, I tried to take a back seat.
I cried and was lost in despair about it. How can people say those things? Don’t they know what he’s been through?
My brother yelled back at the offending passenger: “You are not very nice and you should watch your mouth.”