Well I didn't see this one coming. Tonight our household attended my niece's housewarming party, and as soon as I walked into her living room I saw my younger brother, with whom I've been estranged for about 10 years.
He and Sissyface share the same father, the man who sexually violated all the girls in that House of Incest. Sissyface and I have always been close; I haven't ever been close to my brother, for no particular reason. The problem now is, he's a dead ringer for my stepdad. Same features, same laugh. My heart sunk the moment I laid eyes on my brother. 10 years ago he told my mother he wanted nothing to do with me or my sons. I still don't know the reason. And then tonight there he was, sitting in my niece's living room with his grown daughters and wife. The last time I spoke on the phone with his wife, she was ice cold. This was before I got the message that my sons and I weren't welcome in their lives, so her coldness--where before she'd always been friendly and effusive--puzzled and hurt me.
Much to my surprise, my brother stood up and hugged me. He's lost a bunch of weight, just shy of looking gaunt. There is a sadness about his eyes. He's more soft spoken than I remember.
His wife, in true blurting-everything-out-form said to him, "Don't you think Beauty looks just like your mom? She looks just like her."
My brother nodded, and added, "And sounds like her too."
I sent Sissyface an evil glance which translated meant, "How could you let me walk into this unprepared?"
The thing is, everyone there knew I have no relationship with my mother, so for my sister-inlaw to point out my resemblance to her was a tad bit insensitive.
I caught my brother gazing at me throughout the evening. I couldn't interpret his interest. Sadness, for all the years we've missed out on? Or what?
He related how he remembered when he was about 6, and suddenly I wasn't living at home anymore. I was 15, had just reunited with my biological father, and finally, in a sudden burst of audacity, told my mom I wanted to move in with him.
"One day you were just gone," my brother said. "No one explained anything."
Well, I could hardly say, in front of his family, my niece, my sons and grandkids, "I guess I just got tired of your father raping me every time I turned around. There wasn't any good way to explain that one." Also, does he even know about the abuses? Maybe he does and that's why he looked sad every time I caught his gaze.
Then one of my sons showed him the tattoos above his knuckles, which resulted in my brother talking about my stepdad's tattooed knuckles.
"They spelled out Hold Tight," he said. "At least I think so. For some reason he got mad whenever I wanted to read them, so I never got a good look."
I got plenty of good looks, I could have told him. His hands were all over me, all the time. And yes, the tattooed knuckles spelled out Hold Tight.
Stepping onto my niece's tiny back patio to smoke, a thought struck me. If my brother and I reconnect, I'll probably finally offer Mom forgiveness and reconnect with her too.
I'm not sure what that means. I'm confused. I don't how to feel about any of this. Though I hold no grudge against my brother, and in fact found myself liking him more and more as the evening advanced, I just don't know how, or if, he fits into my carefully constructed life. Who is he to me? Aside from our biological bond, is he anything to me now, all these decades since my truncated childhood?
I heard Sissyface later in the evening tell someone that Mom is coming to visit in December. Ah ha, I thought with a deepening sadness, that will be when we have our talk. I'll come over here to this house, and insist that we're left alone. Then I'll tell Mom I forgive her. Why though? Because she's old. Because she can't change what's behind us. Because it's the right thing to do. Is it?
For me the evening passed in a daze. My brother's wife and daughters warmed up to me once they saw that he was being friendly. That helped. But still the evening had about it a sense of the surreal. I felt as if I were acting an unrehearsed part in a play. I wanted my brother and his family to see how I interact with my sons and grandkids, and see for themselves that we are just people, like them. We're not freaks or anything, so really there was never any reason to cut us out of the picture. I hated feeling as if I needed to prove that to anyone. To feel as I have for so much of my life the need to excuse, or explain, my and my kids' place in this world.
Can we ever be good enough, just the way we are? Can our lives have value simply because we have life?
I've no idea where any of this will lead. My brother and I hugged again when they left, but there was no talk of getting together, or staying in touch. I'm not sure if that's because they were scurrying to get inside their car because of the cold. Maybe there isn't anything there for us, it could be that too much time has passed. And I think I'm ok with that, at least I want to be ok with it. I am weary of pursuing those who don't value me enough to put some effort into maintaining a relationship. I've done that too many times in my life.
As for my mother, we'll see what happens with that. I don't want to be impulsive. I don't want there to be some big family drama if I do decide to mend those fences. I can already imagine some thinking, Wow, Beauty finally came down off her high horse and let Mom/Grandma off the hook. Like this has all been my doing! Oh already I'm beginning to regret a reconciliation I haven't even fully decided on.
Will any of this break the dam inside of me, releasing decades of pent-up emotions? Will I, finally, cry?