I wish I knew how to be insensitive, knew how to put matters out of my head and go on with my life as if nothing happened, but I don’t seem to be able to do that. Even after enduring months of being relentlessly hounded by my dysfunctional brother, even after I took him back to Colorado, I worry about him, worry about his well-being, wonder who he is aggravating, wonder what trouble his mouth is getting him into. There’s nothing I can do though, so worrying is foolish. I can’t control his behavior for him — no one can control another person’s behavior. I remember as a child wondering why he argued with my father since he knew it always got him a beating. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t keep his mouth shut as I did. It wasn’t until my mother was dying that I ever stood up to my father or broke one of his unwritten rules. (I did for her what she could never do for me — stood up to him — which seemed to connect some sort of karmic circle and brought me peace when she died.)
My family was a pool of unwritten rules. Somehow I could understand those rules while other of my siblings couldn’t. Even now, when we are all getting old, those rules still dominate. I guess those rules are why I was “allowed” to stay here to look after my father. I knew never to disturb him when he was praying or reading or doing anything, actually. I knew not to open the windows when the air conditioning was on. I knew not to eat his food, read his newspaper before he did, disturb his paperwork. Most of my siblings knew I was here to shield my father from the world (though we didn’t use those words), but my dysfunctional brother couldn’t understand. I didn’t even know there were all these unwritten rules until he started screaming about my changing “the rules.”
[Oddly, my sister who is here helping has broken many of the same “rules” that got my brother kicked out of the house, which is one of the things that sent him into emotional overdrive. He said it was unfair, and he was right.]
I came here to look after my father partly because I had nowhere else to go after the death of my life mate/soul mate (and when my father is gone, I will again have nowhere to go). But mostly I came to see if I could unwind my ties to the past so that after my father is gone, I wouldn’t still be whining over my unhappy childhood. It’s working, I suppose. I just never expected to be buffeted by such emotional storms, never expected my brother to come and shake things up even more, never expected a lot of what has happened, such as finding a nearby dance studio and taking dance classes.
I hoped that by doing for my father what he could never do for me (I pay attention to his needs though he had always been unable to pay attention to my mine) that a karmic circle would be closed when he was gone and I could finish out my life strong and wise and bold and ready for whatever happens.
But all I seem to do is cry, which is so not my idea of a strong woman, or a wise one, or a bold and independent one.
I thought my brother’s coming here fifteen months ago was a portent of my father’s passing, but although at the time father seemed near to death, my brother’s presence, however unwelcome, stimulated him and brought him to life. (Which is one reason I endured his presence all these months — there was something powerful going on beneath the surface I could feel but couldn’t understand.)
My father seems to be recovering from his most recent hospital stay. With my future on hold once again, there is a chance I can still accomplish whatever it is I need to accomplish by being here. I just wish I knew what it was. Perhaps it’s one of those unwritten rules even I am not sensitive enough to read.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.