What he said has stayed with me. Nothing really profound or deep or anything of the sort. I was at the table when my oldest brother was conversing with an old neighbourhood friend a few years ago. I think the topic was children. And my brother mentioned that he and his siblings were all raised in the same family but all five were different, just like the five fingers on one hand.
A simple illustration. But it stuck in my mind.
And I know, deep in my heart of hearts, that my brothers think about our late father now and then. I don't know why it surprised me but it surely caught me off-guard during a conversation with my oldest brother. It was a casual comment about our father. For one thing, conversations with my oldest brother were very rare. And for him to include a remark about our father was even more rare, or so I thought. And I realised then that he obviously thought about our father. And why wouldn't he?
Our father is deceased. His physical presence is gone forever. But he still lives on in our memories and, yes, even in our hearts. And each heart remembers in a different way, I'm sure. My brother was twenty-one when our father passed away. What was it like for him at the time? I didn't know then. And I don't know now.
It is odd that I can remember him so fondly during family gatherings. Or is it? There were, after all, good times with the family when we were younger. Even the memory of him making us kneel and pull our ears as punishment was recalled with some amusement. Some of my brothers' recollections of our childhood are vague to me. They are able to recall events that I don't. But it seems familiar and then begins to take shape in my memory.
My brothers remember. They were my father's sons.
My father's heart stopped beating when he was fifty-seven. It was the first time anyone really close to me had died. I remember my paternal grandfather's funeral when I was a little girl. Then there was my paternal grandmother's funeral when I was sixteen. They were my grandparents, people I hardly knew, even though we did visit my grandmother on a regular basis. I think my father made it a point to do so.
Writing about him makes me sad. I don't think I expected this emotion. I am a roller-coaster of emotions, that's true, but it surprised me this time.
It's about family and childhood and one's past. It's about accepting the good with the bad. It's about admitting that we loved our father and I'm sure we all did. The skeletons in the closet remain where they are. Something tells me it's not just my closet. But we are a private family, even to each other, it seems.
Our father's heart stopped beating when he was fifty-seven years old. I was at home. My younger brother and I were taken to his hospital room. Our father was dead. It was so strange seeing him like that, lifeless, and with those bandages around his face. It didn't resemble anything I had seen on television. Moments later, our oldest brother walked in and I remember him coming over to me and asking if I was okay. I must have nodded or said yes or whatever else transpired, I don't remember.
I think, in our own way, we sometimes reach out to each other. Humour is frequently used. The oldest is more serious. I know that I can always reach out to them in a time of real need. Feeling safe is a good thing, a precious thing. And I believe that is one of the reasons why I tend to write about my brothers so much. They are still in my present but they were also a part of my past. I'd always felt safe with them. It wasn't always an idyllic childhood and my teenage years were far from wonderful. And my brothers' teasing certainly didn't help my self-esteem.
But in a home where I was wary of my own father during those troubling teen years, I seem to recall that any of my brother's presence was a comfort. I don't think they realised it. I don't think I even realised it. We didn't talk of such things. We still don't.
Now that I look back on those growing-up years, I sometimes think that my oldest brother suspected something was wrong or amiss within the family but couldn't pinpoint anything. Perhaps he was just being "big brother" but he also tried to reach out to me and seemed protective of me. I don't think I appreciated it then and perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree here but I wonder sometimes.
We are no longer children but adults. We are no longer living under the same roof but separated, even separated by oceans.
My mother gave birth to my four brothers and I. Our mother and father raised the five of us. Each one of the five has his or her own story to tell. I can't tell my brothers' stories, not in their entirety. So I tell mine.