Friday, August 28, 2009
picture from here
I can't remember him being born or visiting my mother in the hospital but I remember clearly him being brought back from the hospital, the whirlwind of activities and general concentration on the bundle in my mother's arms. Both were shepherded by a diligent and unyielding team consisting of one of my mother's closest friends who was a nurse, my mother's people and my father. I remember trying to get around what at the age of two and a half appeared to be gigantic frames to see what my mother had brought home. I had been expecting his arrival, fascinated by the increasing expansion of my mother's stomach--a fascination that prompted me to jump on her stomach once, nearly sending both her and my unborn brother to the next afterlife--and constantly being reminded that I was a big girl now because I was going to have a little sibling. I remember making my way to the bed, taking one look at the squirming, crying toothless bundle and deciding that this boy was here to bring me trouble. He was my rival.
He was such an annoying little boy. To me. The easier of us two, for my mother at least, he appeared to me to be the favourite child. As soon as he gained mobility, he followed me around, doing everything I was doing or observing if it exceeded his comfort level and reporting back to our mother, Iya Catwalq, who then would run panicked to stop what I was doing. He was a pretty little boy, quiet friendly and curious. Easy to entertain and for a few years, easy to manipulate. There were so many instances where I put him in some harm's way or manipulated him to do things my way and as I was the bigger child at that time, I got away with it.
As we grew up, he always looked at me like I was the brightest thing he knew and in all honesty, I liked it. But I was not a good big sister. By personality, I was a loner, preferring to play by myself or go off exploring by myself. I also found large groups of people a bit alarming but perfected very quickly the art of misdirection through false bravado. I was the out going child and he the quiet reserved one. In truth, I was just as quiet as he but my silences were always taken to mean that something was wrong, so I spoke up all the time and even too much. And when I could, I would go off on my own. My brother on the other hand, always wanted to come along. To him, I must have appeared adventurous and fearless.
He did not like to read preferring instead for me to read and relay the story to him; stories he neither tried to verify or question. So I think my brother has heard about sixteen variations of each Enid Blyton story and countless mash ups of others. It did not matter to him, he loved his sister and that was enough. And I wanted him gone.
One day, when I was in primary three, my brother came up to me and my friends on the play ground. He was in primary one, about five or six years old. He wanted to play with us. My friends saw no problem and put him in the game. I was livid. What was he doing there? I endured him enough at home as it was, I was not in the mood to endure him in school as well. It was a game of catch where the "monster" ran after everyone else and when you got caught, you assumed the role. My brother attached himself to me, running wherever I ran. I would push him away roughly, once to the floor. One of my friends got upset and pulled him away from me, that he should run with her instead, since I was so mean. When it was my turn to chase everyone, I ignored him even though he would cleverly place himself in my way. This happened for two days and on the third day, he did not come to play with us. One of my friends went looking for him and came back to relay that he was not coming to play. He was sitting in his class by himself. I was glad. I had finally been rid of him. Years later, when our relationship had disintegrated to the point where we would fight to cause each other bodily harm and my mother was convinced one of us would kill the other--once we fought and he swung his fist, I ducked but the rotation caused his shoulder to pop out of its socket-- I was reminded of this incident in a dream. It was so clear that I smelled the hot sand. I woke up crying. Ashamed and horrified. What had I done?
So I tried to make amends. By this time, he was about eighteen years old. Very much a young man and set in the knowledge that he did not have a big sister who had his back. It would have been no one's fault but mine that it was that way. I had got here first. It had been my job to take care of him, to protect him. I had always loved him, that was easy, but I never showed it.
My coming to the United States was probably the best thing that happened to our relationship because we have been able to have one. The past five years have put my family through hell but has brought us together. My brother and I talk a lot, confide in each other and I don't lie to him. What I cannot tell my mother, I tell my brother first and vice versa. He has grown so much and constantly inspires me to keep my head up and hold myself together. I wake up everyday and make one more step, no matter how hard, if for no reason than to make sure I don't let him down. Strong, confident and mature, he has willingly sacrificed a lot so that I don't have to. In many ways, the roles have been reversed.
I can still kick his ass though, if he steps out of line. I will just get another man to do it. Me, I am not fighting any man. Or psyche Iya Catwalq on him, she is good with a guilt trip.
So, Omo Mummy, my baby brother: I love you. I promise to be a better sister. You always have me. I am always here for you. Together, we will weather the storms. And we have to do something about your smelly shoes.