Today, Ed would have turned 41 years old. If he were alive, I’d likely make fun of him and tell him that he was old. Since he’s not, I guess I can’t make any stupid jokes about his age. In life and in my mind, my Ed is forever 33, just three weeks shy of turning 34. I’m 34 now, which means… in my head, my brother is now younger than me. As odd as it sounds, that may not necessarily be far from how I saw my brother. Even though he was seven years older than me, in many ways, I saw him as though he were a younger brother. He’d never really fully matured and been self-sufficient. Many reasons exist for why that is the case, but I frankly think a huge part of it was due to our parents.
In the last few days, I thought about random articles, books, podcasts I’d listened to and read that reminded me of Ed. One of the ones that stood out to me was Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. If you are familiar with this play, I feel about Ed the way the character Tom feels about his awkward, unstable little sister Laura. I love him because I know him deeply, have lived with him, and thus I know his quirks and multiple facets. But the outside world, unfortunately, is not as forgiving and patient, and they never gave him as much of a chance to be known and seen and understood deeply, and ultimately to be loved. That’s the way the world is: other people will always be harsh on you; only a small, small inner circle of people around you will actually see you and really love you for your best qualities. Everyone else will superficially judge you for what is on the outside.
It’s like this podcast I was listening to that talked about how you generally will remember and think of someone only in the context you knew them, and that in itself will form your opinion of them. For example, if a colleague once berated you in public and never apologized to you for it, you will likely only have that to reference him by and won’t like him, nor will you have anything positive to say about him. It wouldn’t matter that literally every other person in your organization thinks he’s the smartest, kindest, most generous person. It wouldn’t matter that he devoted every Thursday evening to serving meals for the homeless or spent $10K every year on donations to support cancer research or suicide prevention. None of that matters because your experience with him was bad. We only see the bubble that we are in.
I want to say that I wish Ed were still here, but I know I would not be honest in saying that. He’d likely still be living at home, under the constant tyranny of my parents, who would criticize him nonstop and accuse him of causing them shame and embarrassment, even though it is really the opposite that is true. They’d never accept that they had any fault. They would only look to blame Ed himself. He would never be allowed to grow and truly become an adult as long as he were to live under their roof. With them, he’d never be capable of experiencing true, unconditional love, because our parents have no idea what that is like, as they live and thrive on criticizing others. He’d never know what it is like to feel real encouragement, to be told that he is smart and can and should do what he wants, and should trust his gut. We just weren’t raised that way. And above anything else, all I wanted was for my brother to be free of pain and hurt, to feel loved. If he can’t feel that in this life, maybe he will feel it in the next.
A true test of whether you think you are doing something “appropriate” to another person is whether you feel comfortable saying or doing it in front of others. Once you are scared to do it in public, shouldn’t that be a sign to you that probably, that’s not the right way to treat someone? It’s too bad our parents never realized that. Ed deserved so, so much better than he got. Sometimes, it feels like he died in vain because ’til this day, it’s like nothing about our parents’ lives have changed for the better. It’s like a pathetic existence that just continued and only got worse.
I feel angry today. Really angry. COVID-19 hasn’t helped this… because all I could imagine at the beginning was my brother stuck under the same roof as our parents nonstop and how that in itself would have driven him to suicide.
These are not great thoughts. But they are real thoughts.