I counsel my patients to embrace their memories when grieving; through our memories, our loved ones live on. I figured it was time again for me to do the same. Since I was very young at the time, I only have a few memories, and the details unfortunately get fuzzier with time, but here they go.
Growing up, our backyard had this rusted, squeaky swing set. I don’t remember the rubber on the seats ever not being cracked, but we adored it. My brother wasn’t into the usual little sibling beat down, at least that I remember. No, he was more subtle about it. He instead created the sideways swinging game. You walk the swing laterally as far as you can and then let go and swing into the other person. Whoever rebounded farther lost. I was four, he was 12, I never had a chance. I ended up with a huge bruise on my hip since I still didn’t get the physics of why I kept losing. I thought my brother was the most powerful man alive.
I really wanted to play his Atari, but I was banned due to a tendency to leave unknown sticky substances on the control afterwards. Didn’t stop me from sneaking into his room to watch him play, perched on the corner of his bed behind the pillows, pretending I blended in like a plush teddy bear. Unfortunately, teddy bears are not supposed to gasp when Frogger dies. “Get out, I can hear you breathing, and it’s messing me up.” Busted...
I have two memories of the hospital. “Paint It Black” playing on the TV for some promo and the smell of antiseptic mixing horribly with harsh fluorescent lighting of his room. The other was the parking lot the last night my parents stayed with him. My little brother and I stayed with some family friends that night. I had trouble sleeping and drank way too much warm milk. Threw it up later that night.
My mom stood me on the side of the bed and dropped to her knees in order have us eye to eye. She told me he was gone. For some reasons, I relive that memory as an outsider looking down at us. Her hugging me while I cried because the world isn’t fair.
He died at age 12 of AIDS. He would have been 38 last week.
Feel free to share your memories in the comments section.