My oldest brother, Freddy, died today.
And I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t think I’m surprised, although his death was certainly not expected. I don’t feel sad although I think I should. I think, most of all, what I feel is regret that we three siblings had grown so far apart, especially, since we had a chance to change that a couple of years ago. Freddy was my father’s son form a previous marriage. Freddy was five (I think) when my mother and father married during WWII and my mother began to look after him. By then, he’d already had a very difficult childhood and I think the effects of that never left him – they shaped the person he grew into. That included an awful lot of traits that were less than admirable.
Still, he was seven years older than me and as a child growing up, he was a bit of an idol. My other brother, who is only 18 months older than me, is much closer to me and always was. We were inseparable growing up. But Freddy was the “big brother.”
He got into trouble a lot. He told tales, he stole when he could get away with it, but they were largely petty things – nothing really serious. And then when he was 17 or 18 he simply disappeared. My parents looked for him through the usual channels – police and so on – but they never found him. I think at some point, after years had passed, we gave him up for dead or permanently missing and life carried on.
Then, more than twenty years later, he resurfaced – just like that. He was living in Nelson BC, he had spent some time in jail, he had been in and out of jobs and on social assistance – and he was more or less an addicted gambler. Still, we were all excited to have him back – until we saw him for who he really was in very short order. He stayed with pour parents, slept all day, gave in to serious depression and refused to take advantage of any help we wanted to give him, and that included my brother trying to get a job for him so that he could put his life in order.
Finally, my father gave him bus fare back home and drove him to the station. Over the years, we continued to try sporadically. Freddy called when he needed to borrow money. My brother was the first one to blow up and say he refused to have anything more to do with him. He cut off all communications. I blew up at him maybe 14 years ago. My reasons were simple – I could not bear to be around a person whose every word, sentence and phrase centered around victimhood. I called him a “professional victim.”
My mother stayed in touch after my father died and the two talked on the phone quite a bit over the years. I liked to think it was because both are hypochondriacs and they could trade stories of aches, pains, illnesses and prescription drugs.
I never really believed the stories my mother told of how ill he really was. Apparently he had, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and various other ailments. He died from complications after surgery. It seems that his heart gave out. So I was not altogether right about how ill he was not – but by then I had become so inured to his “stores” that I found it hard to believe he was telling the truth.
When Rick was here visiting with his wife a couple of years ago, Freddy called with the suggestion that we all get together. I agreed but Rick refused absolutely. I suspect he’s sorry about that now. But we can’t alter the past.
He had a good death, according to his friend, Jay who he has lived with for the past many years. He refused all extraordinary help to extend his life. He had a chance to say good-bye and to reminisce with her and with his daughter and a nun, who was a very close friend. I hope he found peace. I hope he lived the last years of his life well. I left the door open in the last couple of years to communicate with him. It was his choice not to.
He was family. I loved him when I was a child. Perhaps I still did and still do. I certainly feel tremendous compassion for him and I admire the stand he took at the end. I believe I judged him too harshly. I know he loved the talks with our mom so I’m happy about that.
And that’s as much as I have been able to process about this. For now – that’s all there is.