It's a boy!

When I was eight years old, my parents threw some heart-crushing disappointment at me in the form of “you have a baby brother!” Being the little pessimist that I was, this is what I actually heard: “You DO NOT have a baby sister you can torment and take advantage of the same way your older sister does you, so, no twisted reaping of karmic rewards for you. Also, boys are dumb.” Of course by the time he was two, I was his biggest fan (still am).

I like to think we were pretty close while we lived in the same house, despite the age difference. When my brother was four, he started waking up several nights a week with what can only be described as night terrors- middle of the night shrieking, screaming, etc. coming from his room. More often than not I would be the one to get up and go to him, calm him down, get him back to sleep.

I was in wood shop that year (god I miss classes like that. Can I please be 12 again?) and had the idea to make some sort of… symbolic something my brother could keep by his bed, to help ward off the night terrors. So one day I came home from school and presented my brother with this hideous square wooden head on a stick with a bunch of smaller pieces of wood painted and glued all over it as the eyes, nose, mouth, etc. “This will keep the nightmares away,” I explained to my brother that night, and he nodded solemnly as he climbed into bed. I ceremoniously placed the Nightmare Chaser next to him and tapped its 'nose' firmly. “That should do it,” I announced, “You ready to try it? No more nightmares, starting tonight.” Again my brother nodded. I pulled the covers over him with a definitive “here we go.” And wouldn’t you know:
no more night terrors.

My brother
turned 21 last November and should be looking forward to graduating this coming year and going out into the “adult world,” yadda yadda. But. Last March he had a bit of a mental breakdown and dropped out of school. Now he’s been labeled with ADD and depression and has been living with (and scaring the bejeesus out of) my parents for the last 6 months. According to them, there are manic episodes, odd blank stares, rage issues… my mother cries every night and my father’s convinced his son is one block away from CrazyTown. They've put him on medications that may or may not be helping him (and we’d find out for sure if the doctor didn’t keep playing with the dosage), he can’t keep his days straight or figure out how to manage his time, and his self-confidence is non-existent. Frame of reference: When I was 21 I’d been living (and surviving) by myself for a few years, was planning an out-of-state move and had already dealt with some pretty serious issues of my own, on my own. Whereas my brother is 21 and my mother is his alarm clock.

Last week my parents took my brother back to his Indiana university to register for the new school year. Yesterday, he arrived in Texas and moved in with us. I don’t know how (if?) Monk and I can help him, but he’s hurting and scared of what's going on in his head, and can’t deal with my parents any longer. He’s too afraid to go back to school (to face certain people and academic issues), but knows that something has to change. Soon. He’ll be staying with us for at least a semester to try to get things back on track. And while I know we’re not in the same league as bad dreams and wood shop anymore, I can’t help wondering whatever happened to that Nightmare Chaser, and wishing I could use it to ward off his demons now. We've adjusted our schedule and our budget, cleaned out closets, bought last-minute items (like FURNITURE)... I've given up my room and my privacy and any remaining bit of potential alone time for the next few months (meanwhile I'm sure Monk laments the loss of spontaneous... you know, most of all). I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but I’m going to be there for my brother, middle of the night or not, for as long as he needs me.

Here we go.

4 comment:

Anonymous skyhawk said...

Family is family. You're being a wonderful big sister right now. I hope your brother can work through his demons, and strike out on his own with a clear head as soon as possible, for all of your sakes.

I do wonder, though -- as I'm sure you and Monk do -- whether you're able to help your brother as much as he needs. From what you've said... a change of scenery may not be all he needs, and I hope you guys don't find yourself in over your heads.

I'll keep all of you in my thoughts. Good luck.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Quinn said...

Skyhawk, that's exactly the thought that's been keeping me up at night. I'd love for this to be a simple fix, but I have the nagging feeling we've all bitten off more than we can chew. Nothing to do but hold tight and hope, for now.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You are such a wonderful sister. I hope your day-to-day presence in his life will be the calming force he needs to gain some confidence and gets his body and life back on track.

This was a wonderful post, woman. And the next time you are in ST. LOU, PLEASE call me. I'd love to meet you and have drinks. But I should tell you now, the more YOU drink the more entertaining, charming, and attractive I become. So I might end up buying you shots in those first five minutes of meeting. hehee

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who can identify with a lot of the crazy shit going on in your brother's head (21 was probably the worst year of my life, which is saying something, cuz none of them have been all that sweet), I can (hopefully) tell you one thing for sure:

Your brother came to you because you make people feel better. Plain and simple. Even with all the confusion and fear, and fighting off the awful impulses that are going on inside of him right now, just knowing you're there is better than any nightmare chaser.

God knows I ran to you when I was going through that shit. And when I didn't have you there for that one summer, believe me, my life felt the lack.

Tonight, as I was fighting off the need to study, I was listening to some of those songs I used to play way back in the day. . . some of the songs I wrote about you. I haven't listened to some of them in years. Hearing some of the lyrics again made me come here and check on you. I couldn't stop thinking about you, and how much I miss you and how great you are.

This was from one I wrote before I was going to visit you in college after I'd moved away:

If all the darkest moments had me in their throes
and all the earth between us withered as it froze
I could stand unshaken as the buildings block the sky
and smile in the midst of this gigantic lie.

As long as you're on my mind.
As long as you're on my mind.

There I was 1500 miles away, thinking about the fact that your existence could make me happy.

And then there was this, from a song I wrote about the first night we ever hung out:

She carries scars just like mine
and smiles through it all like everything's fine.
We watched the night rest on the water.
I could kill the men who harmed her.
All my pain was there in your eyes,
you've seen all my days.
You know the feeling of a guilty heart
broken a thousand ways,
and how that's the way it has to be.

And of course, this:

Maybe I just stepped out of line
but I've seen you cry at night.
You're the only one who makes me laugh
and ignore the demons in my past.
Now you know what keeps me awake.
With you here, I could get some sleep today.

Let's drop the weight from our backs.
Let the world fall apart while we relax.
Because fixing limbs on fallen trees
is such a waste of time to me.
Why spend our days letting them win?
Let's run away and watch the sun set again.

I wonder how much time I've got
before I'm just a glimmer in your thoughts.
I want to make up for all the lost days
before I have watch you turn away.
I want you to know every scar I have
has faded away, and god, how I love you for that.

Your brother is going to get better. It's going to take time, and it's not going to be smooth sailing, as they say.

But he's got you, and that's fucking huge.

I love you,

P.S. That "glimmer in your thoughts" line made me cry tonight the same way it did when I wrote it a decade ago.

2:29 AM  

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