Twenty-seven years ago, my life was changed by the birth of my brother, A.J. With his entrance into the world came ten years of hospital stays and doctor visits. Ten years of confusion, chaos, laughter, typical sibling rivalry and my own share of pain.I have written little about my brother since the time I started keeping a blog. There is still much of me that looks at his short life with a great measure of contempt for what his childhood meant to my own. Maybe because our stories are so intertwined and because of much of my wounding occurred during those ten years as he received all of the affections and attentions of my mother while I was left with none.
And because after his death, the things that I had hoped for, completely fell apart.
I associate the memory of A.J. with pain and sadness and I'm afraid that if I dig into my heart, I will discover that I not only didn't love my brother, but that even now, I am still incapable of finding any real love for him. And I question too, am I supposed to love him? Does it even matter? I've recently discovered that some of the greatest shame in my childhood is tied to the relief and even gladness I felt when he died. And where I beat myself up and did violence to myself because those feelings were true for me and I was too scared to utter them out loud to anyone.
Much of me feels afraid of the anger I feel inside about him, about those years, about the things I was robbed of. It's a place I am still reluctant to sit in and allow myself to feel. And now, almost seventeen years after his death, I am feeling the tug on my heart to be more curious about the things I have stuffed deep down in my heart.
It's almost as if I've been experiencing healing in layers. And the story of my brother is and was underneath some of the other pieces of my story that I have more peace about than I once did. Perhaps it's time to peel back this layer too.
Today would have been A.J.'s 27th birthday. I can't even imagine my brother as a man - and I don't think I'm supposed to. He is forever ten and obnoxious and wearing cowboy boots with shorts and playing drums on Lego buckets. He is forever barging into my room begging me to play and heard crying through hospital walls as doctors try to draw blood or find a vein for him to get the treatments he needs through an IV.
I remember my story beginning with the birth of a sibling born with life-threatening defects. This brother I never really got to enjoy or know the way that other brothers and sisters might know each other. My hope is to keep telling my story, to keep writing it out. And to go back and look at the things that need revisiting with the perspective as a now grown woman, more redeemed and whole with each passing day.