My brother just had a shotgun wedding.
where one or both parties are forced into marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy
– Urban Dictionary
Everyone must know what that is, but for some reason I felt the need to google it. Gotta love the Urban Dictionary. So, I have a new sister-in-law! That I barely know! This is all fine and well. My brother and I have always had a unique bond and I’ve always felt that he has some kind of 6th sense when it comes to me. Well, maybe not always. He came to live with my husband and I for a while after he almost drank himself to death and could not go home to live with my parents because after 3 times of this happening before, they finally shut their door to him. My husband and I were happy to welcome him into our home with just a few adult rules, including “no drinking” for the alcoholic who wouldn’t admit he was an alcoholic. My mother begged me not to let him live with me, swearing up and down that it would ruin our relationship. “That’s impossible,” I’d tell her, “Me and my brother have a bond that no one understands… it is impossible to ruin.” He lived with us for four months and witnessed a lot of the same problems between me and my husband that we still deal with. At one point, he made the gigantic mistake of inserting his 2 cents into the “problem” that he presumed he understood. He’s always really looked up to my husband for many reasons. He said to me, “Sometimes you just have to let things go. I hear you talking about the same one issue over and over and it’s exhausting. That’s one of my pet peeves! I hate it when people do that! Just let it go!”
Maybe that was the point things started to change… but over the course of the last month he lived with us as he completely ran out of money and as a result became very anxious and unappreciative, he finally told me to “Shut up” and that was it. I told him to get out. My brother and I hadn’t fought since we were kids. Adult fighting really is so much worse. I hated it. I had hated the last two months he was with us, because he had turned into someone I didn’t recognize again. You can never really know a person until they live with you, though. It’s the truth. Living together as children, again, is very different from living together as adults. He would sit on my couch and watch South Park and Reno 911 for hours. I would come home from work, at a job I could not stand, and he’d be on my couch, laughing as if he didn’t have a care in the world. I’d find myself asking his permission to change the channel on the TV that I paid for… the channels on the cable plan that I paid for. He had ultimately no respect for what we were doing for him towards the end of his stay. And, much to my mom’s heartbreak, it definitely did ruin our relationship for a couple of years. He never called me. I didn’t exactly seek him out either, it was pretty hard to swallow the disrespect in the end mostly because I had never experienced anything but the utmost respect and friendship from my brother. When he finally got himself back together and moved back in with my parents, he would always call my sister first if he needed to come to our town, which was quite often as he was prepping for the NAVY and had frequent check-ins. It was painful – I’ll never know if it was painful for him because he has re-entered a shell over the years. He pokes out now and then, usually when he’s drunk. I’ve gotten an email or a phone call about how wonderful I am and how much he loves me in the last two years since he’s been in the NAVY now.
The latest call that made me think he was truly “back” involved the latest news. He was drunk, and shaky and scared out of his mind. The details don’t matter – what happens next does. My brother and I have a wonderful talk and he admits for the first time that he knows he’s an alcoholic and that it is harder for him not to drink than it is for him to drink. He tells me he is afraid of failing and afraid of screwing everything up – afraid of not being man enough to raise a baby or be a good husband. He tells me all his fears and I pump him with the confidence I know he needs although inside I am crying in my fear. I was so honored that I received that call; that he had reached out to me first. He told me that he loved me and that he knew I would know just what to say to make him feel better about things. I told him that I would do anything to help him because he had always been there to help me in my darkest hours. I relied on him for my only support system many times. And, he’s my little brother. But numerous times when my mom and dad did not have the emotional capability to mother and father me the way they should have, my brother stepped up and did his part to be sure I knew I wasn’t alone. The fist time I ever experienced major depression and felt trapped (because I pretty much was) in my parents’ dysfunction emotionally and physically, my brother invited me to go on a date with him… out of the blue. He just asked me one day if I’d let him take me on a date. It was honestly the first genuinely no-strings-attached nice thing anyone in my house had asked of me for as long as I could remember. So, I said yes. We rode the bus to the movies downtown, he bought me a single red rose, and we even held hands. People probably thought we were actually on a date, it was so sweet. I’m sure my parents gave him money and admired his gesture… they had told me just weeks before that I should consider how my depression was affecting my “little brother.” It didn’t seem to be affecting him at all; he seemed to simply understand that I was very, very sad. Sad enough to want to end my life. He understood that I needed some positive human interaction. He probably saved my life that night. I’ll never forget it. I didn’t really understand why he was being so nice to me – he was only 14 years old and I didn’t comprehend how he could be so tuned into the situation. Especially, because my parents obviously had no regard for his emotional intelligence because they had no concept of “emotional intelligence” at all themselves, and certainly a 14-year-old child could not have the ability to think rationally for himself. We’ve surprised our parents, many times over the years.
About 3 years later, I had to be hospitalized because I calmly explained to my roommate that when she left to take her exams the next day, I was going to take my entire bottle of Ambien sleeping pills and call it quits. I was scared to call my dad to ask for the insurance information required for my stay, so my roommate did it for me. I am pretty sure I have an idea of what he said to her that day, but she never told me. She just told me “Your dad’s an ass hole, no wonder you’re here.” Somehow we managed to get the insurance information, which means someone was able to convince my dad that I actually was in need of some serious medical intervention… that depression is actually not something people just make up for fun or boredom. What I didn’t know at the time was that my brother was home the day my roommate called him and got to witness and hear out loud my father’s thoughts after learning that his daughter had been hospitalized for wanting to end her life. I would come to learn that the words he first uttered were “What are people going to think of our family?”
Eight days later, my family was required to come in for a family meeting so that the doctors could be sure that I was going home to a safe environment. Here’s out that played out: two therapists sat in the room with me as my family entered one by one, a small room full of chairs placed in a circle. I stood up to greet them but every single one of them walked past me without even acknowledging my existence, except for my brother. He was last to come in and he gave me the biggest hug you can imagine. Again, he’ll never know that hug saved me because there’s no way to verbalize that to someone. I’ve told him many times how much it meant to me… but there is no way that he could ever know how powerful it truly was. It will not surprise you that approximately 60 seconds later, the head social worker/counselor looked at me and asked me to come outside the room. “That was all I needed to see, honey. Your entire family needs to be committed, save your brother. You’re the sanest one among all of them. We’re not going to have that meeting because what I just witnessed was enough for me to know that it is not safe for you to go home with them. But you are ready to go home; do you have anyone else who you can stay with for now? Is there anyone that you can call?”
And there it was… maybe for the first time in my life… some solid validation that I needed in a major way. There were actual reasons for my depression, particularly this episode, that had nothing to do with my family. They just couldn’t separate themselves or their need to “keep up with the Joneses” long enough to comprehend what was actually happening and what horrific parents they were proving to be in this particular situation. But, my brother could and did.