"I have to get off the phone, I'm just not a phone person. I just have to...get off the phone now. I love ya and maybe I'll talk to you later when I'm in a better frame of mind or something..." My Mom is annoyed. Her frustration comes through the phone at me like an ice pick in my ear.
"Ok," I barely whisper, trying not to fully break down and bawl my eyes out. "I love you too, I'll talk to you later, Mom." I am sobbing at this point, unable to control it anymore. She softens a little and tells me she loves me again, and then she's gone. My whole head shakes as tears pour from it. Again.
This is the story of having a brother. An older brother. A brother everyone has taken care of for years. This is not where we begin, by any means, nor where it will end, this is just the middle of a very long, very hard struggle that will last for the rest of our lives. This is Scott's story, my story, my Mom's story. And it's scary as hell.
I gave up nearly seven years of my life, this last time, to take care of my brother, and to help my Mom - to keep them from killing each other, to keep them from hurting each other, to keep them both sane. But I have moved on now, and the guilt of that abandon may end up killing me.
Chapter One - Missing Dads
1985 - Mom is 36, Scott is 11, I am 8
"No, you're stupid."
"You're so stupid, and ugly, that it's no wonder Russelllll doesn't call you. Who would want a stupid, ugly girlfriend?" Scott is mad because I told Mom he was out back torching ants with WD-40 again, right next to the house.
"You're MEAN! And I HATE you!" This is almost the worst thing I can think of to say.
"No boy is ever gonna like you because you're such an idiot! Ya big fat tattle-tail!" Once again, he's triggered something violent in me and I can't help but run up to him, dig my fingernails into his arm, punch him a charlie-horse right in his shoulder, and try to take him down. He is bigger than me, older by 3 years, and I can never take him down. He screams at me, spins me around, and throws me on the floor. Sitting on me, pinning me down, he says again, "no boy is ever gonna like you.....because you're fat, and ugly."
"You're never gonna have a dad...because you're stupid and nobody wants you. TWO dads left you behind, TWO! Nobody loves you. Because you're mean and crazy." These words come out of my mouth calmly, pointedly, like a marksman taking aim.
"God, Julie, you suck." Bullseye. I am released and my brother slinks off to his room - sniffling and kicking the hallway walls on his way.
I know I've crossed a line, but I don't care. I hate him. He's always mad at me. He always takes my things, tells me I'm horrible. He used to steal my new Christmas Barbies and mow them over in the yard, or hang them from the trees, or rip their heads and arms and legs off. He lights everything on fire, and stabs holes in everything with his knife. I think he's maybe a little crazy for real, but I don't know. He's got a million zits and no friends. He's just mean, and I don't know where he learned that. What have I really ever done to him? Besides only having one dad that left me behind, instead of two. And I didn't really have much to do with that, I don't think.
I'm scared to face another attack, so I stay in the livingroom and watch Bob Ross paint some happy trees with his mighty fan brush on PBS. It's summer, and it's hot outside - too hot and too dry. The fan blows on me and I fall asleep on the couch. I dream that I am in a hospital, but not because I'm hurt. My brother is having a seizure. There are lots of nurses holding him down, and someone sticking a needle in his side. There's a doctor or two and a lot of machines. I watch my brother's eyes jitter around in his head, watch his feet kick at strange angles, watch his fists tighten and contort. And I just stand there, in my dream, and watch, like it's just another day. I've never seen Scott have a seizure, just heard my Mom talk about it when he was a little boy. I don't know what was wrong with him, nobody knows. He just had a lot of seizures, nose bleeds, and ear infections.
I wake up to the smell of hamburger frying. I must have been asleep for a long time. My mom is in the kitchen making dinner, spaghetti and garlic bread. But instead of spaghetti noodles, all we have is elbow pasta. And instead of french bread, all we have is Wonder bread with garlic salt on it. It smells good, and I'm hungry. I go in to see my mom, slink up to her side at the sink. She puts her arm around me and asks if I had a little nap. I tell her I guess so, and ask if she needs any help. Scott is still in his room, but I'm sure he'll come out - he never misses food. My mom asks what happened with us. I tell her we had a fight. She sighs, shrugs, stirs the Ragu, and tells me we just HAVE to stop all this fighting. I say I'm sorry, but I don't think it helps. I feel really bad all of a sudden, and I'm thinking Scott should be out here by now, so I go to his door, try to open it, find it locked, and knock lightly.
"Scooter, dinner's almost done....spaghetti....are ya comin'?" No answer. "Scoooooottteeeeeeerrrrrrr..."
"Leave me alone."
"It's time for dinner. Come outta there and eat."
"I'm not hungry."
"You're always hungry, come eat, don't make mom mad, she's already upset we had a fight."
"Don't be an ass! That's mean, she didn't DO anything! Just come have dinner before you upset her more!" I pound and kick the door a few times and get pissed again. What's his problem???
"Get outta the way-fat ass." He's opened the door and pushed me aside, smacks me in the head - all in one swift movement. "I'm mad at you, don't talk to me." HE'S mad at ME. Wow.
We all eat dinner, Mom in the livingroom on her recliner, Scott and I at the kitchen table, glaring and slurping sauce. Mom sends us both to bed after dinner, it's past eight, our bedtime. No one says anything, except "good night, I love you". Scott won't say it to me. We always say it, no matter what. Every night. No matter what. But he won't say it. I go to my room, get in my jammies, and kneal down to say a prayer. "God, please make Scott tell me 'good night, I love you' - please. And please watch over Grandma and Grandpa Fishie, and my Mom, and all my friends, and my other family. But if you're too busy for that, just do the first one. I miss it. Thanks, God, good night, I love you."
There's no answer and I'm impatient, so I go to Scott's door. It's open a little bit, and dark, so I quietly slink in and up to his bed. I slide down against his mattress, onto the floor, and pick at my fingernails.
"You know what for. I didn't mean it."
"Yeah, you did."
"Go to bed."
I get up and head out, leaving him in the dark, and say again - almost pleading, "good night, I love you".
"Good night." I only get half. And the wrong half.