Wednesday, January 7, 2009

To My Brother

I was 3 and remember the anticipation of the new addition. It wasn't the excitement that you would expect. Even as a child, I recall the whispering and the black cloud that surrounded it all. They explained to me that he was sick with as few details as a three year old could sustain. I was going to be a big sister, nonetheless, and I was eager.

After he was born, my mom, still just a kid herself at 19, cried a lot. I spent most of the first few weeks at relative's houses while my parents vigilled at the hospital. I specifically recall the day they told me he was coming home. In my childish grasp, I understood that to mean he was better and I would now have the baby brother and playmate I had longed for.

He was fragile, like most babies. He was adorable and smelled immaculately fresh. Mom would disconnect him from his tubes long enough to take pictures of the proud big sister holding the little bundle. The way my face is lit up, beaming, in those pictures- I couldn't have been happier. Every morning, before my parents were awake, I would wake up and run to his room and peek on him in his crib, like a new toy I couldn't wait to get out of the box.

One morning, I hurried in, excitedly, to find him in a "mess". Thinking nothing of it, I went to mom's room and told her that "Tony had pooped all over himself." In an immediate knee- jerk reaction, like she was expecting it, she jumped up and ran to check on him and called 911 in one swoop. She knew what was coming and knew the signs and knew that the time had come. She was level-headed and a pillar of strength. I don't remember dramatic tears or hysteria- it was efficient- just like a drill we had practiced a hundred times before.

I was being ushered over to my neighbor's house as I watched the paramedics rush into mine. In my limited knowledge, I was frightened and saddened, but not confused. I felt guilty for not peeking in on him earlier, hoping against hope that I could have stopped it from happening.

At that point, though, I understood what had happened. I understood that my brother was sick and that he would be going to heaven. I suppose my mom must have explained that to me to some extent in preparation of these events, but I don't remember.

In the days following, the house was full of people, but you could hear a pin drop. It was daylight and sunny out, but the curtains were drawn to match the mood in the house. I remember people sitting on the black leather sofas just staring at each other like no one really knew the right thing to say. It is a silence and a weight that I will remember feeling my entire life.

Tony lived only 6 weeks. My mom has since filled me in on medical aspects of his condition, the multiple birth defects that he suffered from, the fact that they didn't think he would live for even one week, and how when he came home, it was for him to die, peacefully.

My memories are fully that of the 4 year old I turned the week he died. These are memories that will stay with me forever- for good, bad, or indifferent or even inconsistent. It's just one event that shaped me into the person I am today. It's a sadness that I will feel as long as I live. I have empathy for my parents in their pain of losing a child. I have a selfish pain of me never getting to know my brother. An unending yearning to know what he would have been like, looked like, and what we could have shared.

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35 comments:

♥georgie♥ said...

Oh Tena this post had me in tears
(((hugs)))

Ronda's Rants said...

Your Mom dealt with so much at such a young age and you even younger...I am so sorry for your loss.

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

I am so sorry that you lost your brother...but being old enough to be able to remember...that is something special to hold on

Jenni Jiggety said...

Oh...:( How sad...

because I said so said...

Oh Tena....I'm so sorry.....I know this pain all too well. I'm sorry for you and your family, it's a feeling that you will never lose. Never. (hugs)

jill jill bo bill said...

That was beautifully written Tena! So so sad. I am thinking of you today.

Travel Writer said...

So sad...Its all part of life!

Brooks said...

(((hugs))) to you! What a vivid memory at such a young age. That was written wonderfully too. Will be thinking about you today!

Tami said...

Wow! Beautifully written. I'm so sorry for your loss.

J'Ollie Primitives said...

Awww sweetie ~ I'm so sorry. Your mom sounds like an incredible person to go through that, so calm at such a young age ~ ((()))

Annie said...

You've got an extra angel just for you, Tena! Big hugs.

Under the Influence said...

Bittersweet memories - hang on to them. Thanks for sharing.

Jay @halftime lessons said...

Wow, sweetie...such a horrible thing for you to carry. So sorry.
J

Cheryl Lage said...

Oh Tena, so sorry to read of your loss at such a young age...and want to thank you for your lovely recounting of those memories.

Blessings.

Honeybell said...

Oh Tena. Beautifully written.

amelia bedelia said...

gosh Tena, that is so sad. He is in Heaven.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Tena, in all of your childlike innocence, you grasped so much! I'm so sorry!!

Deb said...

this was so beautiful. your clarity and innocence... i am sorry for the loss of your little brother and the subsequent pain and emptiness. you bring so much laughter and fun around here, i hope we can offer you some comfort in return.

we're here for you, little mama!

CailinMarie said...

holy shit. okay, seriously that was my first reaction which I realize isn't okay and everybody else is coming up with nice things to say. But pretty much all I can say is "Holy Shit!" What a heavy heavy experience for a 4 year old. I am amazed that you had children and managed not to completely wig out, and then that you changed their first diapers without a full hysterical break down. Because me, I would have spent my first year as a mother relieving my first experience as a big sister.
I am sorry you didn't get to keep your little brother. No doubt you would have rocked at big sisterhood. I cannot imagine life without my little brother. Please give your inner 4 year old lots of chocolate cupcakes for her birthday with extra icing and pink sprinkles and give the grown up you whatever the hell she wants. Hugs to you on this day. Lots of hugs.

Soxy Deb said...

Oh Tena. That is one of the saddest things I've read in a long time. It's amazing that you had even the weakest grasp of what was going on.
Your mom sounds to have handled it all with such grace. And at such a young age.
Thank you for sharing this very personal memory with us.

SITS Girls said...

Oh girl. You never hear these things from a child's perspective, thanks so much for sharing.

Your mom sounds amazing, especially handling all that at such a young age.

Hugs.

Minxy Mimi said...

(((HUGS))))
Its not good for me to cry at work, but I am. How strong your mom is... I am so sorry for your loss, loss of a playmate, a sibling, a confidante. I cannot even imagine.

Brittany said...

Such an emotional post. thank you for sharing it with us.

CoffeeJitters.Net (Judy Haley) said...

such a big lesson at such a little age. although that would be confusing and painful at any age. how precious that you can actually remember all that from such an early age. thanks for sharing

Susan in the Psych Ward said...

People say, "kids are resilient, they bounce back." Maybe to a certain extent, but losses like this stick with us.... what a beautiful story of loss told from the perspective of a toddler.

Laurie said...

Your story of your brother is so poignant and so real. Even though your loss was many years ago, I am so sorry, and so glad you wrote about it...

bsouth said...

I'm so sorry you lost your brother and your mother lost a son. You have written an amazingly powerful post about something that must have been so hard. You are a very amazing lady.

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Eudea-Mamia said...

Oh Tena. Such pain. What certain parents and siblings have to endure. It breaks my heart.

I agree with "CailinMarie" - to have the courage and strength to have your own.

I'm so very sorry.

Linda S said...

I'm so sorry, but I'm glad you are able to write and get it on "paper" here...very beautifully written.

Mrs4444 said...

Thanks for sharing your heart, Tena. Sorry about your baby brother.

Lee the MWOB Queen said...

That is a beautiful heart wrenching post from such a young child's perspective - it's amazing. The memories you have and how this memory in all of its mystery helped shape who you are. Incredible post. Thanks for sharing it.

Terri said...

wow that's rotten, very glad that whatever afflicted your brother did not carry down to yours or your sisters kids. They all seem to be healthy and happy!

Jen said...

I hope that writing this story down has brought some peace to the tragic event. I'm sorry for your loss.

ALI said...

tena, this is beautiful, your mom sounds like an amazing woman. you know she is thinking about him too this week! I have two brothers-almost lost one once, I sort of get it.