My brothers' destructive path had found me (and not just me) sometimes wishing he would just finish it off already. Just kill yourself or get killed quickly and end all the mayhem, I'd thought. My parents had said it aloud. Others too.
When someone who needs help doesn't accept it, you became infuriated. Or resigned. But when the consequences of their tresspasses become YOUR consequences (or your elderly and inferm parents' consequences) and they just lie and ruin and avoid in the face of what has become YOUR sacrifice, then hatred brews.
I hated my brother for sure. But I adored him and would have done anything to bring him peace. To rescue him. I'd recently told him that if he'd just go thru detox, stop hanging out with losers, go to meetings, begin doing the things that happy people do (and I'd be there to help him) then maybe he could be happy again. He screamed into my face, "AGAIN?? I've NEVER been happy!"
Now he lay dead on a gurney in the South Bronx. There would be no more of his bullshit.
Forget that I had been the more responsible one for half of our lives together and that he'd been my consuming nightmare. I'd lost my one and only brother. And one of my best friends.
The 4am ride to my parents apartment in Flushing happened like one of those sleeps that last an entire night but feel like only a minute has passed. There were blurred store signs and police sirens and minimal conversation and terror.
How were we to compose ourselves for a task like this?
What could we do?
There is a protocol for comforting the dying, as my mother was. Like just being there. Just being a sounding board or holding a space open for them to process their process. Or showing them that sunshine is still lovely and that harmony is healing and that humor soothes....if only for now.
But this new development twisted reality in a most cruel and impossible way.
I was a wet ton as I lifted myself out of the car and walked toward my parents building. I'd never wanted to run away more than I did right then. To just drive off into oblivion. We have friends in a remote part of New Mexico...hundreds of miles away from the nearest city and we could live with them and catch water and make mud bricks and sleep in a tent with dogs who would guard our perimeter from the prowling coyotes at night. I wanted so badly to be free.
I felt horrible for dragging Jenn into this, but she took it on as if it were her own family. Her own brother. Her duty. She'd been through the hell of losing her big sister a decade earlier and had a sense of strength here that kept us focused on this thing. In the elevator there was no more running. "Are you sure you're up for this?". She nodded and did not ask me the same question. Of course I wasn't. We got out, made a right turn and walked the horrible walk to their door, unlocked it and went in.
Is he ok?
Honey! Honey! He's dead! Kim! Our Kim!--
Mom screamed and would have run around the apartment if her cancer had left her any strength.
Dad slumped into shock.
--YOU DID THIS! You always hated him!-- said Mom to the father who had just lost his son.
--It's no ones fault, Mom.
Please let's not make it worse.--
Two or three hours.
We were going to stay over. At least I was. But mom said to go home. To sleep. She was ok.
Throughout all of their neediness, their dependence, their demands and my help....sometimes willing, sometimes not.....they apologized. They'd say things like, "this is too much for you" or "I'm not sure how you're doing this", or "I'm sorry".
I felt used and overextended beyond my limit. I hated this shit and thought I must be cursed to have been assigned such a desperate and pathetic family.
But I'd say, "it's no big deal". Or "you HAD me....this is nothing".
The following day I got my crash course in making funeral arrangements.
I'd plan two more in the coming months as I maintained a tense detachment.
I called one cousin and asked her to call the others. Asked one of my friends to call the other mutual friends. Same with my moms friends. Called a few more. Dad had none to speak of, but I did print up a small sign and posted it between the two elevators in the lobby of their building.
"The funeral for Kim Branitz will be at...."
I dreaded running into neighbors.
My dad kept telling me he couldn't go.
My mom kept splitting off into semi-cheerful idle talk and then into supreme darkness. Then back.
We each dealt with this loss our in own way. The guilt was heaviest for them, as I'd shown up as completely as I could have, given my brothers complete unsupportability during the worst of his addiction. Our parents had continued to give him shit for everything and still to provide room and board regardless of his unwavering trail of havoc. They did this knowing it wouldn't help. That nothing would help. But that they couldn't bare turning him to the streets where he looked and smelled like he lived.
True, my mom was now dying from her cancer. And Dad's heart was leaking and there was this test that was going to tell us if the doctors suspicion was correct about leukemia.
Their bodies were collapsing, but Kim's suicide definitely killed them.
In a way I think that this HAD to happen because moms death was something Kim couldn't have bared.
A few months earlier, I attempted to have our hundredth conversation about accountability and the importance of getting clean and ending the barrage of problems he brought home to our suffering parents. Or moving out. It was destructive for all of them to remain in the same small space. I realized that he was not understanding moms prognosis and thought it imperative for him to know. "Kim....Mom's dying. You DO realize that, don't you?"
"Fuck you! You're MEAN!" He couldn't even look at me. He frowned so completely and he nearly head-butted me for his second "FUCK YOU", delivered through spit and a distorted frown that took over his whole face. His whole body.
A few weeks later, Mom told me that Kim had been crying inconsolably in bed one day and when she sat with him and rubbed his back and asked what was wrong he said that I had told him that she was dying. He was angry at me for saying such a thing.
He fucking TOLD on me.
Imagine....dying Mom....consoling her grown son, in denial over HER impending death. And then her bringing it to ME. Really fucked up. She wasn't mad at me. Just telling me. She and I were very close and my brother was pathetic.
Now we mourned. For the few hour long shiva, in the ghastly, cluttered apartment my parents shared with him, there were many pictures of Kim in better times. He had been the most beautiful child. I heard myself saying how perfect he was and still cannot bear the tragedy...the waste.
At first, I didn't want to forget any of it because it felt as if forgetting would shut the people I loved out of my experience.....the good along with the bad. Then I wanted to just forget because it all hurt too much. So I began writing what I was living with anyway. I don't write so I can remember. And not so I can forget. I'll never forget....but to maybe put this chronicle of spoiled fortune on a high shelf. Set it aside for small bits of time. So my life can catch its breath and gear up for the next thing. To know it's there and that I can take it down now and then and make a little more sense out of it if I feel up for the challenge. When I feel strong enough to know it won't kill me.
It didn't the first time.