There was a two year age gap between me and my brother, M. It wasn’t a conventional brother sister relationship. We never fought over toys, we never beat one another up, we never competed for attention, we never pretended we didn’t know one another at school, we never pooled our pocket money together to buy presents for our parents and we never spoke.
M couldn’t speak so we never had a two way conversation. He couldn’t walk so we never ran around in the park or raced one another. He couldn’t feed himself so we never begged our parents to take us to McDonalds. He required round the clock care so there never was a question of competition for attention. He got it.
Being the sibling of a severely disabled brother is tough. To this day, any phone call post 11pm fills me with fear – someone must be on the brink of death. I lost count of the number of times it happened yet he pulled through. I watched my parents grieve constantly, although that grief evolved as he moved through life. When M finally died, aged 16, I was at university with my mother and grandmother visiting. Mum told me the news, I cried, and then promptly went off to perform a gig with my a cappella group. After, the girls sat in a circle in tears as I broke the news.
Ten years on, few people know I have a dead brother. My friendship group has shifted so much. Twice. During my father’s speech at mine and wife’s wedding, it came as a surprise to many to hear that I had a dead brother. He has shaped me so much, teaching me how success isn’t all about money and fame, and that not everything is plain sailing, yet I don’t talk about him much. Heck, I forget him. However, I still grieve for him. I get teary. I’m in a pub and my eyes are watering just thinking about him. I want to leave that pain behind.
I can go weeks without thinking about M. Possibly even more. My grief for him has been totally eclipsed by my grief for my wife. Will I forget about my grief for my wife? Will the people I’m with not know my history? Will she stop being on my mind every single day? I hope so, yet I don’t. She’s not on my mind all the time like in the early days of agonising wailing on the floor like a madwoman pain. Grief’s such a bitch full of conflicting emotions.
Life is good again, so will I leave all that pain behind me, live in the now?