I’ve lost my brother. Now what?

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From the moment he was born, life was a struggle. At four months old, he still only weighed four pounds. He’d already undergone multiple complex surgeries and had flown half way around the world to his new forever family and home. Still, his eyes were wide with awareness and his little features, sickly as they were, captured my attention.

My little brother was finally here.

I jumped up and down next to my parents, trying to get a better look at his face. Our friends crowded around us, eager to welcome him into the community. His piercing brown eyes darted from face to face, too alert to blink. He wasn’t as much scared, as he was in awe with all that was before him.

We felt the same way.

Sitting on a cold formless chair in the international arrivals terminal, I prepared my arms to receive my baby brother. Weighing practically the same as a bird, I was mesmerized by all his little features. He was smaller than my Cabbage Patch doll! Pressing my finger into his hand and watching his fingers curl around mine, I had no words. Just a big grin from ear to ear.

Ironically, as my brother grew, he became the one with a smile bigger than his face. His personality was bigger than life. Laughter (and trouble) were never far behind him. As he reached toddler hood, my dad began calling him Calcutta Calvin. Being a cheeky mischievous little boy from Calcutta, India, he was the embodiment of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs… just browner.

Portrait of the author and her brother.
Image by author

He drove me crazy and made me laugh hysterically. I was his biggest fan, and his harshest critic.

As he entered school, his inherent spark began to flicker. Teachers either adored his wild spirit, or wanted to contain it. Eventually, specialists were called in. Therapist and counselors were consulted.

It was determined he had ADHD, and that was that. He was enrolled in programs to get extra school support, red dye was removed from his diet, and he was signed up for more sports. Still, it wasn’t enough. Like a leaky boat, his childhood continued to take on more water.

Shortly after his high school graduation, our mother died. Three months later he enrolled in the military. While in basic training he was diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness. One that would have him permanently discharged from service.

After that, he never quite recovered.

His mental illness took over and life continued to unravel in large and dangerous ways. Each time he tried to get back on track, his own mind would sabotage his efforts.

To watch his world come undone was gut wrenching. Family and friends moved into the shadows of his life. His world became increasingly filled with poorly crafted coping mechanisms, paranoia, and frustration. That was over ten years ago.

It didn’t take long before he was on the street full time.

On a good streak, he has a tent or tarp, maybe even a discarded blanket. Other times, it’s snowing and he’s huddled under a bridge with nothing. With each phone call from “unknown caller,” my heart skips a beat, hoping it’s him. Though we live drastically different lives, we are first and foremost siblings. We’re both acutely aware that we’re all the family we have now.

Sometimes he calls when he’s bored. Other times he’s outraged. The hardest calls are when he’s scared and lonely.

It’s been nearly a year since I last heard from him. We’ve never gone this long without connecting. I wonder how he’s managing everything.

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I try not to have too much hope that he still has that tent he’d told me about, or that his paranoia is low enough to utilize a local shelter. To be honest, I don’t even know if he’s alive. At least the weather has warmed up.

There’s nothing more excruciating than feeling helpless to do anything for a loved one. I know. I was helpless when my mom died, when my father died, and now I’ve lost my brother. No matter where he is or what he does, how old he gets or what struggles he has to endure, he will always be that little baby I held in my arms with the big eyes and an even bigger smile.

I hope he knows that.

Hi there! I’m Anon, a writer, educator, wife, mom, expat, adoptee, and so much more. I write about creativity, family life, mental health, and the love between a woman and food, among other things. My hope is to shed some light on the opportunities we have to awaken a deep sense of peace from within and to then use that inner peace to make the world more whole. If you want to stay up to date with my latest posts, here and on my blog, subscribe here. Thank you so much for your support. ~ Anon

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Anon Gray

Anon Gray

You don’t need to know where you came from to know where you’re going. You just need to know what you seek. Find where you belong and then let go.