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. His father actually died in 1998. But it wasn’t until 2010, when I had a failed sinus surgery, one that was a nightmare, that things changed. Because I just. couldn’t. survive. another. trauma. 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 never quite got it right. Mark, my brother, on the other hand, has worked at the same place for 33 years. He was very successful. Still is. He is happily married. He does well financially, especially with the combined income of him and his wife, who is a nurse practitioner. No money worries. 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 frantic I was for some help and what desperation it took for me to reach out to him. To confess to my inability to go on alone any longer. I was NOT making it. I had started to have horrible asthma symptoms as a result of all the sinus issues, almost dying once, collapsing in the ER. I was constantly physically ill, having fought the sinus infection from hell for a year (my incompetent doctor created a super-infection – long story) and the surgery had failed because when the specialist entered my sinuses to clean out the infection, 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 surgery. So he had to stop almost before he started and he told me it would be bad until he could reschedule and do what needed to be done. 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, once in an ambulance. 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 of my mother. I felt totally worthless, had recently been left by my husband of 22 years because he fell in love with another woman, lost my job, had accumulated massive debt as a result 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, encourage and share their 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. 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 could barely 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 shopping 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 horrific of my life. I was so tormented, I still can’t find words to adequately describe the torture, my panic or my overwhelming anxiety.
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.
He reached back because my mother finally came clean. You see, 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 discretion, with no filter, no holds barred, as they say. Of course, she also 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 finally believed. He came from 3-1/2 hours away and 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 to learn more 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 a curse to be spit from his mouth. He was angry beyond belief…more angry than I have ever been. He despised the man he had once adored. He has told me repeatedly that it was a good thing he was 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 Mark. He was Mark’s hero. And I destroyed his hero. A hero I never had, certainly. For I lost my father long before he died. Mark didn’t lose him until years after death. I’m not sure which loss was 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.
I have never been able to celebrate Father’s Day. Now, my brother can’t celebrate it either.
I’m not sure if the loss of his father is a good or bad thing. I’m not sure if his illusion was healthier than knowing the truth. I feel as if I took something precious from my brother.
But in reality, I suppose my brother’s father, my father, is the one that is actually responsible.
And now, we both hate Father’s Day…together. Because we can’t forget the father we lost at very different times in very different ways.