To the brother I never had.
Sometimes grief and tiredness is so overwhelming that it almost becomes comical. Do you know what I’m talking about? There’s always that one person laughing during a scene in a movie that has you reaching for the tissues and muffling your own sobs to avoid attention. I might have been young, but I was aware that the bubble of giggles rendering me useless at the funeral of our uncle was something to be noticed and disapproved of. I’m still ashamed to this day. I can barely recollect anything else, except for finally meeting you in person. The brazen, off-cuff comment from my father gesturing to you as if it was a regular occurrence. If only I’d known then what I know now, things may have been different.
Until that moment, you weren’t a real person. I hadn’t properly acknowledged the severity of the situation, the heaviness of what was happening. Until that moment, you were the spiteful comment in an argument with my father, the admittance of a secret kept for too long, the defensive rebuttal of an accused father who was poorly hiding his nerves. Until that moment, you were the abandoned, unwanted and ignored son that I somehow shared a father with. You were the realisation that if this awful thing hadn’t happened to you, then perhaps I wouldn’t even exist. But now, you were real. Looking at was unnerving. The strangest thing was how familiar you were — the undeniable association with my fathers’ eyes, the similarities in my own to yours. The subconscious comparisons I made to subtle features in all of our faces were clear and although shared genetics and acquainted features were obvious, it was still scary. You more so resembled something of a house I once lived in, that had been remodeled or renovated and I’d lost the sense of home rather than a person.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and I wish we’d spoken about the differences in our upbringing at some point. Maybe even that day. At any time. This exact thought weighs heavily — the tremendous sadness that must have consumed you at some point of your life with the recognition of being left without a father frequently crosses my mind. Now, as I approach three of my own years since cutting him out of my life, much like he did to you, I often consider what it’d be like to have never have known him.
If it’s any consolation, you didn’t miss much. The father you didn’t have was the devil on my shoulder who drove me to the depths of questioning my own sanity, doubting who I was as a person, and compelled me to do things foolishly and without regard for others. He was unrelenting and cruel, spitting out toxicity and belittlement on an almost daily basis in between overwhelming and thinly veiled ‘acts of kindness.’ Some days he was warm and welcoming, but most days he was far from it. I wonder if, perhaps like me, you felt as though he’d influenced the inability to deal with my own anger, frustration and emotional turmoil throughout my life. Maybe you had the same issues in your blood that I did. Whilst I grew up experiencing the negative impact of our father’s presence, I can’t help but wonder if it was any worst than the obvious and prominent lack of him you felt. I can’t help but wonder if you’d be disappointed.
The regret of thinking of these things, rather than talking to you, affects me from the core of who I am, from the bones in my body. It plays on my mind like a repetitive song, a reminder of the impossibility of changing the outcome and I almost feel as though I’m undeserving of that feeling. There are so many others feeling the impact of your leaving more than I ever could.
I wish I could tell you of the times I thought of messaging you, of calling you, but held back for fear. What if you were just like him? The occasions where I’d see a social media conversation and realise others knew you better than I ever would. I often saw posts that weren’t happy. Why didn’t I reach out? It was easier to look the other way, to pretend I knew all I needed to, in fear of having to address the issue that in reality I didn’t know you at all. That responding with “I have one brother” was so much less confusing then explaining the real situation I had. Did I say I had three? Did I say I had half-brothers? I didn’t know how to explain the revelation of an additional two half-brothers, let alone comprehend the feelings that came with it.
I wish that I could change the decision I made to leave things be. If I’m honest, I felt like the damage had been done by my family, the relationship between us as siblings too hard to start and I couldn’t help but absorb that responsibility. I thought that, as if in some way, I should have felt your existence and I’d let you and myself down by failing to do so. I felt defensive of my mother, who had to carry this secretive burden of feeling like it wasn’t her place to tell us about you. Did you think we knew about you? Did you think we made the decision to measure the distance and duration of our separation and choose to continue it? I guess none of this matters now. I wish I’d taken the opportunity to contribute to your life, to enjoy your company, to find joy in all the possibilities of similar traits, characteristics or flaws. Did you hate the same foods? Like the same movies? I’ve never learnt about the things we had in common. I never will.
I remember the phone call like it’s a permanent dark cloud hanging over my head without a sign of ever moving on, occasionally re-appearing as a storm with no warning. It was like the light dimmed around me and I ached for the loss of someone I never really knew. I thought of Brad. I thought of Zac. I thought of everyone you’d left and I frantically wanted to call you, to apologise for not trying, for not being there, for not defending you. I wanted to talk to you, to save you, to do anything. To be a part of your life rather than another number mourning you. And I don’t really know how to stop thinking that.
There’s a space that will always be empty, despite nothing ever being there to fill it, forever. Losing you has changed me, in a way that I can’t quite articulate and the worst thing is, it feels as though the loss started the day I found out about you and has continued like an unrelenting burn ever since. Finding out about you was knowing we’d never get the chance to grow up together, like we should have.
The most painful part of losing you was the lack of the connection that we should have had. I don’t have any memories to reflect on, any conversations to replay. I don’t think it would have ever been possible to have the kind of relationship that I feel a family deserves, but to know you in the way that I could have will always be something to regret. I didn’t know you, Scott, and I have to struggle with that painful acknowledgement each time I remember. These thoughts may be quick and they may be small, but they are frequent and mimic the shock of electricity. It’s like my stomach has dropped from the fifth floor office I sit in and hits the road below. It still takes a few seconds to really remember that you’re not here.
Maybe I know that I won’t find peace, I won’t find closure, but perhaps somewhere riddled within the confusing darkness, I can find acceptance. I know that my loss is buried too deep within me to be resolved, healed or forgotten but I can move on and learn to understand this feeling of ‘missing.’
For now, I’m trying to navigate the vague landscape of sibling loss, of determining what makes us all a family and growing older with the understanding that I have to move on and forgive myself. I don’t know when that will be, or at what point the sadness and regret will start to subside but I have to try to live with it, while remembering you.