Today, my dad turned 69. It’s the fourth birthday he’s celebrated since my brother has been dead. Each time his birthday comes around, I am reminded once again that just ten days before four years ago, Ed committed suicide, and each year is a another year without Ed to see the dad he hated so much get another year older. My family doesn’t celebrate birthdays, anyway. Nothing is really worth celebrating to them.
Macy’s, a place where my brother worked for 12 years, is gradually shuttering its stores around the country. The location where Ed used to work is closing, so my dad suggested to my mom today that they go in to see what was on sale that they might need. My dad didn’t feel like going in, so my mom went in. She barely lasted 10 minutes before she suddenly started getting really dizzy and nauseated, and it peaked when she saw a young Asian man who vaguely resembled Ed working in the domestics department. That’s the department Ed used to work in. She left and told my dad she wasn’t feeling well and had to go home and lie down.
Our dad was never one to talk about feelings. He still isn’t. And so my mom felt relieved when I called her today so she could talk about it with me. She immediately burst into tears when I called. “I just miss him,” she sobbed. “I could have helped him, but I didn’t take him seriously. Why didn’t I do something to help?” She reminds me again of that day two weeks before he died when he came up to her and said he didn’t want to live anymore, that he had nothing left to do with his life, that he didn’t blame anyone but himself anymore. She didn’t even tell me this happened until the evening he went missing on July 22 of that year. “I should have done something then,” she added. “But it’s too late now.”
I felt really terrible and feel for my mom when she is overwhelmed by all these memories and feelings of guilt, but honestly… at that point, it was too late to help. The help was needed — long, long before that awful low point. Why didn’t she or my dad do anything earlier than that — you know, when he was a child and needed the love and attention of his parents rather than the verbal abuse and yelling and beating? Or, how about wishing your son a happy birthday while he’s alive rather than “remembering” his birthday once he’s dead?
I feel conflicted all the time about the two of them. My parents have so much pride and joy around my life, with going to and finishing school at a prestigious high school and then college, of working and slowing increasing my “rank” career wise, of living an independent life where I don’t rely on my parents for money or physical protection. My mom takes all the credit for my success, even for how I met Chris. So if they are so quick to say that all my successes can be attributed to them, then why can’t they just admit the fact that at the same time, they should also take responsibility for my brother’s life and suffering and pain? Ed had so much potential at so many points of his life, and they didn’t want to believe in him even when they say in retrospect now that they did. I always hated that we were treated so unequally, and I still resent it now when I receive money from them or birthday or Christmas gifts. I actually really hate it and immediately am reminded that Ed never got those things ever after he turned 18.
I comforted her anyway because I have to and because I think it’s the right thing to do. I try to soothe her because I know my dad never will. But I’m still pissed. I probably always will be about this… until the day I die and finally join Ed.