There are things about my life that I don’t often share. I don’t hide these things because I have some need to keep my personal life personal. In fact, I’ve always been an open book. I’ve wanted to share my heartaches so that others will benefit. I’ve been open about my battle with depression and ADD. I’ve also shared my grief and heartache over the loss of my mother. My thought is that we all suffer, and maybe if I talk about these things, then someone out there will know that all their trials are nothing to hide.
The one thing that I haven’t spoken openly about was my brother. My older brother has been in prison for years. He’s been there so long that my children don’t know him. Well honestly, his own children don’t know him either.
It pains me when I think about the circumstances that brought him to be where he is and for this reason, I am humiliated by the fact that he’s incarcerated. But, I love my brother. I spent years and years resenting him, hiding him, praying for him, and then reconciling with him so we could have a relationship.
You see we were born to ideal parents in an upper middle class family. We had annual family vacations, the adoration of a mother and father, and more love than any children could ask for. Both of our parents were brought up in poverty and their only goal was to make our lives better than their own.
He will tell you now that he’s in prison with men who were beat on a daily basis or whose parents did drugs in front of them. After years of self-realization, he’s come to conclusion that he had no right to do the things he did. I believe on some levels the best thing that ever happened to him was his going to prison.
There are horrible side-effects, of course. He’s been there so long that he’s terrified of getting out. He’s never paid a bill or held down a job and the thought of life on the outside is suffocating.
However, he got mental health I’m not sure he would have ever gotten on the outside. He wound up in a prison system that wanted him to be well. And over the last ten years or so, we’ve developed a relationship that we never had before. He’s eight years older than me, but I’ve always been the big sister. I’ve cared for him, sent him money, and been his life line to the world outside.
There is no link like that of a sibling -one who knows where you came from, how you were raised, and what your value and moral grounding is.
The reason I felt the need to share all this is because after all this time, sometimes he can give me the best advice. The other night we were on the phone and he told me that ever since I was a little girl, I’ve thought I had to be perfect. He said I’ve always felt it was my responsibility to fix things and make whatever mistakes the rest of the world made right. Then when I accomplish something it’s never good enough. I can never live up to my own expectations. He asked me to slow down and enjoy my life.
I guess I’m just touched that he sees me and appreciates me. I spent my life wishing I had a sibling who had been there when Momma died. I wanted the big brother that I was supposed to have and finally at the ripe old age of 37 I think I finally found him.
I hope that whoever your siblings are, whatever wrongs they’ve comitted against you, you can find away to put your relationship back together. It’s never easy, but it’s worth the work.
Monique O’Connor James