I just chatted for an hour with my biological brother. Despite how much we’ve spent apart, we have stayed close. We have similar personalities, and are ostracized from our family in similar ways, so it works out.
On top of all these painful memories tied to our discussion, things I hadn’t thought of for a long time, one in particular stood out to me.
him: remember when i fell out of the car?
me: I have nightmares about it.
This was in reference to the time he fell out of a moving vehicle. He was very young, and despite the car going very slow, he required medical attention to a head injury. We started discussing it, and I was overcome with the emotions of my elementary school-age self. I will document that event in a future post, but the gist of it is that I felt responsible, and I prayed for many hours, and I will never forget him walking in, wearing hospital robes, as tall as I was on my knees, and hugging me.
What fascinates me about this is that he doesn’t remember the details like I do. I don’t expect him to, he was barely older than a toddler. It is just that I have these memories of a life that surrounds him, and I feel like it is getting further and further away.
My two brothers were the center of my world for the first dozen or so years of my life, and it just occurred to me that I may have never told either of them that. The first sense I had of being an adult was when I was separated from them, for the first time, when I was approaching my teens. We had always moved together, and we had gone with my mother when she fled my father. But when it was time for the “adults” to figure out their lives, the children had clear owners (he wasn’t my bio father).
My reason for explaining this is that in my internal timeline, the first era of my life was the very short-lived fuzzy dream world of my first memories, and then it is all about my brothers. Our adventures, our fighting, our ability to protect each other… it is only now that I realize how much my relationship with them shaped the path that would mold me into the person I am now.
I have always felt that I had raised them, and that I had a certain entitlement to tell them what to do. And while I was like any child, often misguided, I recall a sense of integrity that I always looked out for them, and told them how to be safe. It isn’t something that a child five years their senior should be dealing with, but it was what I had, and I appreciate it for what it is.
As I contemplate having children, I start to revisit a lot of what I lived through. A lot of things are easy (supervision: yes; BB guns: no). Some aren’t as easy. I am okay, though. I had an interesting burden as a small child, navigated the chaos of our society as a teen, and have spent the last decade freaking out and rebuilding my life, all without hurting anyone more than is required to freak out. I’ve helped raise two pairs of brothers directly, and countless others in proximity. And arguably, I am doing an okay job of raising myself.
Family memories are hard.