My brother lost his father in 2010. And he’s still struggling with the loss today. This was the man he had always admired. Looked up to. Respected. Believed in. Wanted to be like. He actually died in 1998. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I had a failed sinus surgery, one that was a nightmare. And I just. couldn’t. do. another. one. alone. This, in turn, caused the demise of my brother’s father.
My brother and I didn’t talk much at all for years. Didn’t have a relationship. I was the black sheep of the family. The one who struggled. Who tried hard but failed. Who just wasn’t quite right. Mark, on the other hand, has worked at the same place for 33 years. He’s been very successful. He is happily married. He does well financially, especially with the combined income of him and his wife, who is a nurse practitioner. Nice cars. House paid for. Able to travel internationally a couple of times a year. There is a big contrast between us, and though he is younger, I’ve always felt “lesser than.”
So perhaps you can get a small glimpse of how desperate I was for some help and what it took for me to reach out to him. To confess to my inability to go on any longer all alone. I was NOT making it. I had started to have horrible asthma symptoms as a result of all the sinus issues, almost dieing once, collapsing in the ER. I was constantly physically ill, having fought the sinus infection from hell for a year (my then doctor created a super-infection – long story) and the surgery had failed because when the specialist got in my sinuses to clean the infection out, he discovered I no longer had sinus bones. They had been eaten away by the massive infection – the worst he had seen in 23 years of practice. I had only a thin membrane between my brain and sinus cavities and my optic nerve and sinus cavities. He needed special equipment for this delicate of surgery. So he had to stop and he told me it would be bad. It was worse than bad. On top of all this, I was fighting an eating disorder. Having problems with electrolytes and had made a couple of visits to the ER as a result. I had been in counseling for 10 years or more trying to recover from the childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by my father and neglect and abuse from my mother, felt totally worthless, had been left by my husband of 22 years because he fell in love with another woman, lost my job, gotten in massive debt and couldn’t cope a second longer. I was alone, scared and freaking out. I needed a hand to hold. I needed some support. I needed my brother.
Part of what made everything come to a head was being dumped by a friend at the door of the hospital the day of the first surgery. She was to come back and get me right away once the surgery was over, I explained at check-in. The nurses were not happy. Someone was at least supposed to come in and talk with them so they could explain what to expect and what care I would need afterward. They finally relented and called my friend to make certain she would, at least be available to come get me. So I sat in the waiting room alone, watching families huddle and hug and love. I watched a few pray together. I saw them surrounded by friends, family, church pastors. And I sat alone. Waiting.
When the surgery was over and my friend had been called, I was put in the outpatient prep room where I began the journey after my name was finally called. I lay there, miserable, bleeding, hurting, unable to breathe and scared, listening to the nurses talk about how my friend had said it would be an hour or two before she could get there, that she was involved in something else. They were throwing “well, I never” all over the place. I heard. It hurt.
When she finally arrived, I still couldn’t walk to the car. She did agree to stop by the pharmacy so I could get my prescription filled and pick up needed supplies. Alone. I leaned on the cart and was grateful for it. When she arrived at my house, she didn’t even help me out of the car or to the door. I got out. She drove away. I struggled with my purchases, finally getting in the house where I collapsed on the couch.
The night that followed was one of the most horrible of my life. It was so tormenting, I still can’t find words to adequately describe the torture.
Because of that horrible night, I e-mailed my brother the following day and told him where I was in life, what was going on and that I needed him. I totally expected the rejection I had encountered in the past. I was pleasantly surprised. He responded in a positive way. He reached back.
After my father died, our mother started talking about how he had sexually abused me. In fact, she couldn’t shut up. She told EVERYONE. Without any discrimination, with no filter, no holds barred, as they say. Of course, she told my brother. He didn’t believe it. But for some reason – maybe a miracle – when I threw up all over him about the sad state of my life, he heard and he believed. He took me to the hospital for my 2nd surgery. He cleaned up blood, got me soup and talked me through the hardest part of the healing process. He also asked if he could visit with my counselor about me…what had happened, where I was, what I needed. I gave the counselor permission to tell him anything that might be helpful. And this is when his father died.
I feel horrible about it. Mark had always seen what his father wanted him to see. He believed. He loved. Admired. Suddenly, the very word “father” was an oath to spit from one’s mouth. He was angry beyond belief…more angry than I have ever been able to even think of being. He despised the man he had once adored. He has told me repeatedly that it’s a good thing he’s already dead, because if he wasn’t, Mark swears he would kill him. I am totally confused by this. I don’t hate him…so why does Mark? It’s perplexing. It’s disturbing. And I feel responsible for taking his father from him. Because, you see, his father and my father, they are the same man. The one who sexually and physically abused me loved, cherished and cared for him. He was Mark’s hero. And I destroyed his hero. A hero I never had. For I lost my father long before he died. Mark didn’t lose him until years after death. I’m not sure which is harder.
Not that Mark blames me; but I do blame myself. I hurt for him. But I can never give him back what he has lost, because, in truth, he never had it to begin with. He loved an illusion. And sadly, that illusion has been decimated. Because of me. Being needy and selfish.
And so, I have pulled back. And so, I try to not need very much at all. And so, I watch his pain as I drown in guilt.
I’m not sure if the loss of his father is a good or bad thing. But it happened because of me. Which may be yet another thing for which I can never forgive myself.