Tonight’s Writers’ Ink prompt is about a lost family member that the main character of the story has yet to meet. It should be someone very close:
I wonder what it would have been like to have had a brother rather than ‘just sisters.’ Would he have been someone that I could have played sports with? Dad didn’t get involved with things like that. Then I might have had someone who attended all three of my weddings. That would have been strange. Maybe he could have helped me through the down times of my divorces, or through the scary times when I was ‘between careers’ as well. Maybe I could have helped him; family is rather divorce-prone and great at taking a crooked path when a straight one would have been much easier.
I have heard that in the early 1950s, when people were having lots of children, if you didn’t have any or only had one, then there were ‘ways’ in which you could acquire one. Lots of money was involved, as it was done on the sly. “Well if you really loved me, you would have bought me a brother.” What kind of spoiled only child would have said that? Still, it would have been nice.
In a way I had a brother. But he was stillborn. My poor mother, she who was that beautiful soul who sang me to sleep with pop songs of the early 1950s, who was always there right away whenever I woke up shouting in the night, an imaginative child’s demons being to real to deal with alone. Imagine her going through labour to give birth to a child she loved before it was born. I don’t know how she could have gone through that.
Sometimes, as a young adult, I spoke with him, conferred with him like the brother he would have been. That has helped me resolve issues, when I could not completely trust my first opinion, or my second, for all that.
I only learned about this not-to-be brother when I was an adult. That pain was not shared with me as a child. You do protect the children when you can.
There is nothing I remember of emotional pain when I was a child. There was physical pain, yes, especially when I did something clumsy, which seemed frequent. I fell and broke my leg, broke my nose playing baseball, and embedded a big wooden splinter in my right knee from sliding on the floor. My mother would talk softly to be and sing it better with pop songs.. It is just as well that I was never told of the brother that never was. The male child I was would not have known how to heal a mother’s pain. I could not have sung it better.
Thinking of mom’s songs, I remember how she used to play “Danny Boy” when she was depressed, and how she used to sing that Rosemary Clooney song right in my face, putting her finger on my forehead as she did so. I’ve had that song in my mind a lot lately.
We were poor when I was young. My father set up a few businesses that never seemed to succeed, although all I was aware of at the time was that we didn’t have much, while others did. It didn’t really bother me. I was the type of imaginative kid who could turn sticks and stones into people and toys. My favourite was a stick shaped something like a rifle, that I named “Betsy” after the one that my television Davy Crocket had, and called “Old Betsy.”
Then it seemed that sudden we had money. One of dad’s ideas must have clicked. The middle class life was ours. But I still kept “Betsy” for years.
When you reach 65, you wonder about ‘what would have beens.’ They don’t have to be those of regret, just of wonderment and curiosity. So I wonder what my life would have been like if I had had a brother. I have carried such a small number of male friends over the decades of my life’s twists and turns, it would have been good to have a brother.
That one song that mom sang to me, the Rosemary Clooney song, has been haunting my head a lot in the last few weeks, and I don’t know why. I even had to listen to it on You-Tube – amazing how many of the words that I knew. I particularly hear in when I am walking around the town, walking the dog or going to a store. It is like it is in the air, somehow.
I am walking now, in the narrow passageway between two stores. The song has popped into my head (funny there is no sound word for ‘appear’, as it is almost in the vision of my brain). Then around the corner comes a man holding the hand of what would seem to be his grand-daughter. Her family moved into the neighbourhood a few weeks back. I’ve seen him a few times there, but only from a distance. Funny, that he looks familiar, now that I see him slowly approaching, taking small steps to equal those of the little girl.. Maybe we went to school together – that kind of familiarity. The sense is over-powering, but with no resolution as to who it might be. Maybe, now that I see him more closely, as I slow down my own pace (can’t think and walk at the same time), it is because it is almost like looking in the mirror. We are built the same, similar colouring, same baldness on top.
He stops walking. He reaches down to his grand-daughter, and starts to sing, placing his finger squarely on her forehead, “Hey, there. You with the stars in your eyes…..”