Monday, January 19, 2009

8 Years

I was 5 and he was 8 when he came zinging into my world. Really. That was the noise we heard. Zinging. Awestruck by his gift in handling crayons, I let him color in my coloring book. He could actually color in the lines! He was loud. He loved to laugh. He taught my sister and me to jump from bed to bed. And we fell in love with him.

My step-brother came into our life much like a tornado nestles into a mobile home park.

Sometimes he was angry. Other times, he was overly enthusiastic. He fought authority. He fought with his new sisters. He was just different. I was amazed by the range of his emotions. Sometimes I hated him. But most of the time I loved him fiercely.

While I was in junior high school, I was beginning to put together all the reasons my brother was different. He sucked at baseball because he threw like a girl. But he could help you figure out how to cut your kinky ass hair so that it was cool enough to be tolerable during the Dorothy Hammill era. By the time I was in high school I had figured it out. My brother was gay.

Being gay in Smalltown, Georgia is not a recommended way to become accepted by others. Most of the folks in town still believe that being gay is a choice. And if you make that choice, why then dear friend, you are going straight to hell (said with Southern Baptist hellfire and damnation accent).

So, we made a pact. We would just act like nothing was amiss. And no one knew anything about it. That is until my brother was beaten up outside the gay bar on the county line. I thought I would die when that story made the paper. And I found out how cruel kids can be. I cringe with the memories of how badly I wanted to fit in with the cool kids – those cool kids who were such assholes.

My brother soon left to live where he could find himself. New York. Washington D.C. San Francisco. And finally, Cincinnati, Ohio.


Conversations became sporadic. And yet still deep. We both complained about boyfriends. And our parents. Until one day, my “I’m pregnant” was silenced with his “I have AIDS.”

When we went to get him from Cincinnati to bring him home, I was struck with the grief in knowing that we were bringing him home to die.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of my parents who had to stand up to scorn and ridicule because they stood by their son. And the power of family was enough, at that time, to heal him. He bounced back. He laughed again. And, at times, he even raged.

For five years, we had our ups and downs – along with a few medical scares. We began to joke that our brother would out live us all.

But eight years ago, that all changed.

I miss him. I miss how he gave me advice when I didn’t want it and he was in no position to give it. I miss his hyena cackle when he was making fun of us. I miss his funky Christmas gifts that always had everyone wondering. I just miss him.

This Tuesday Tribute is in memory of my brother who died on January 22, 2001.

19 comments:

Kulio said...

Tears in my eyes.
Goosebumps on my arms.
I feel it.

Peace and Love

Threeboys1mommy said...

I'm terribly sorry for your loss, Beth. I was raised in a very different state, during very different times that would be considered more accepting, but it's never easy.

Kristina P. said...

Wow, Beth. This was so moving. Your brother sounds like an amazing, strong person.

Ann's Rants said...

I'm dumbstruck. Tears and anger and rage at the injustice, yet the beautiful ribbons of love woven throughout your lives. What a terrible terrible loss.

Sarah's Blogtastic Adventures said...

That was a lovely lovely post. I hope one day the world will be different and people won't have to hide in shame or be threated with violence just because of something that isnt the majority.

You were lucky to have him for those years.

Halftime Lessons said...

Oh Beth...I just feel sick for you and your brother. So happy for you and the relationship you had, so terrible to lose him.

I love all those morons who judge people like your brother...they just make me realize what great people the REST of us are.

Beautiful tribute, Beth. I so hope you are full of happy memories of him.

Jay

Denise said...

He sounds like a wonderful brother. Im sorry that he passed. This was a terrific tribute to him.

Beth said...

Thanks to all for the uplifting comments. We really do feel lucky that we had him for as long as we did - there are a lot of fun memories. While I'm sorry that my sons had to learn about hurt and loss at such a young age, I'm glad they got to know their uncle.

And Jay, I love the way morons can make all the others look so good. Great way to find the silver lining!

Sera said...

This is an amazing tribute to your brother. It sounds like you guys had a very, very special relationship. I'm so sorry for your tremendous loss.

nikkicrumpet said...

I am so sorry that you lost your wonderful brother. He sounds like a great guy. And I'm sorry he had to suffer through small minded people's stupidity. My religion teaches that homosexuality is a sin...but it also teaches toelerance and love for EVERYONE. It's never been nor will it ever be our place to judge. I work with a guy who is gay...Tim is one of my favorite people in the world...I would kill anyone who said a bad word about him or tried to hurt him in that way. Times have changed so it's easier to live without having to hide who and what you are. I wish your brother could have lived during this time when people are more accepting and less judgemental. I'm sure he is in God's gentle care...and smiling down at you because he loved this tribute!

Just B said...

This was so beautifully written. Wow. My first time here and I am so, so glad I came. I felt all the jumble of emotions you conveyed so perfectly.

Candice said...

I really loved your tribute to your brother, Beth. Sounds as though you both had a very unique and special relationship. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Annie said...

A very nice tribute to your brother. Thank you for sharing!

Comedy Goddess said...

Amazingly beautiful! I know he is with you always. What an impact we have on others.

Deb said...

oh i am just so sorry for your loss and your brother's suffering (from the disease AND the ridicule of others). thank you for sharing this amazing tribute with us!!

The Frugal Angel-Guided Psychic said...

Oh I have tears in my eyes! What a fun, thoughtful, moving "post". Thank you so much for sharing this. Hugs, Kara

Paige said...

What a great post. I am sure he would be honored

bernthis said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your stepbrother. Living in L.A. I have many gay friends and all their stories about living as a gay man in an intolerant environment are so painful to hear.

kippy said...

beautiful and heartbreaking, beth. i'm so sorry i didn't get to meet him. we just missed him by a few years!i'm so glad he had you guys. you're an amazing friend, defender, and truthteller. how lucky we are to live a block from you!