WordPress Draft #19 is sitting patiently in the queue. I hoped to wrap it up and get it out this weekend, but decided, roughly 10 minutes ago, after scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and noticing a posting pattern, that this “subject” easily took precedence.
As you likely know, today is “national siblings today.” Some people, I know, are inclined to feel slightly bitter on days like today, as well as on any related holidays (ie father’s day, mother’s day, valentine’s day, etc). People who have either lost loved ones or who presently find themselves without a lover on a day specially designated for celebrating love with things like chocolate and stuffed animals can feel a little left out on days like today, and these people will experience varying degrees of pain and sadness as they’re reminded of either their loss or the bothersome existence of that vacant ‘post’ in their life. Regardless.
When my brother, Bobby, passed away in 2012, I was tempted to join this bitter crowd. “People celebrating their siblings like this is just INSENSITIVE. Do they even stop to think about the people who have been left sibling-less in this life because of old age, sickness, or tragedy?” But it didn’t take long for me to decidedly abandon my trek towards that crowd. Why?
Loss is tragic; it’s important to recognize it, feel it, and empathize with those who have been affected BY it. But love should ALWAYS be celebrated. One of the finest displays of love is in relationships — whether those relationships be romantic, friendly, or familial in nature. Appreciating that someone else exists, recognizing their freedom of will and choice, caring for their feelings, health, and overall well-being, acknowledging that you enjoy spending time with them, complimenting their strong points, applauding their talents, accepting their weaknesses and forgiving their shortcomings.. all of these activities and all of these things are love. So, today, when I noticed that it was siblings day, I wasn’t bitter. I honestly wasn’t even sad. There was, undeniably, a single, achy pang that pulsated through my heart when I thought of Bobby, but at the same thought of him, there was also another feeling that was even more present than the painful one: happiness. I am genuinely happy that people take time to share how grateful they are to have the family members, lovers, co-workers and friends that they do. “But they should be thankful for these people ALL year long,” some argue, “not JUST on some holiday.” DUH. Of course they should. Siblings Day is still a fantastic idea. It isn’t an excuse to neglect loved ones during the OTHER 364 days of the year. It’s like this: National Burrito Day happened on Friday and I’m still eating burritos year-round. To be perfectly clear, my burrito-buying-and-loving-festivities are NOT reserved for that single day – that glorious holiday – alone. That would be insane. So that logic (“turning appreciation for someone into a holiday makes it seem unimportant to appreciate that person during the rest of the year”) is totally invalid.
After smiling at about a dozen of these sibling posts, I immediately knew what I wanted to spend the next 30 minutes of my evening doing. And that is this: drafting a quick post that contains (2) of my (very) old written works. Both of them are about Bobby, and I wrote both of them while I was in school.
I wrote the first one when I was in the 3rd grade, in response to the question: “If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?” The second paper was an autobiographical narrative that I wrote for a 10th grade AP English assignment. I’m inserting both of them (the essay and the narrative) below, and I’m telling you RIGHT NOW that – with the exception of possibly correcting an obscene “your” to “you’re” and vice versa here and there – I am going to attempt to resist the urge to edit/ rewrite/ refine everything.. so please bear in mind that these rough pieces were written many years ago and with the vocabulary + writing finesse of an 11- and 16-year old.
“If I could have one wish granted”
A 3.5 Paragraph Essay by Amber Roderick (Editor’s note: Who the hell is THAT?)
Period 5, 11.19.04
If I could have 1 wish granted, I wouldn’t have to think twice of what it would be; my wish would be that my brother hadn’t of had cancer. You see, he had radiation. Now, he has the mind of a 9 year (old).. and probably will. Always.
School? Yeah, he goes to school. He’s 15 (turning 16 in a few weeks) in highschool. But, of course, he doesn’t go to the normal classes. Nope, he goes to the ‘special class.’ You know, he’s one of those guys who rides the ‘retard bus,’ the kind of guy you make fun of because he is disabled, because he is different.
Just put yourself in his position; he is limited. He can’t play sports, he can’t read or do math higher above 2nd grade level. He doesn’t date. He has no confidence, he has low self-esteem, and he has no friends. He see’s (*sees; couldn’t resist) people staring at him.. he hears the names he’s called. He see’s (*sees; come on, Amber) the girls ignoring him, and the guys avoiding him, making no effort to pay him any attention what-so-ever or befriend him. He realizes his limitations; that he’ll most likely never be able to drive, or get married, or have a baby, or get a decent job or ever live on his own.
Sometimes, I feel guilty, when I wonder what it would be like to have a.. well, ‘normal’ brother. What would he be like? Would he look the same? Would his personality be different? Would he have a girlfriend? ..would we be friends?
What things we take forgranted (yep, one word, but at least I didn’t spell it out as ‘for granite’), playing sports, reading, going out on dates, just being apart (*a part) of the crowd, are things he dreams of.. things he wishes he could accomplish. If you were only given a day in his life, you’d see what he has to go through everyday.. and maybe then, you could reach out to him, befriend him.. you have no idea what 1 act of kindness can do.
The end. Okay; up next (and I really will try to refrain from editing this time)..
AR Roderick – Autobiographical Narrative – Period 2 – 5/4/09
He crawled like an infant, but he wasn’t one. He called out her name, mournfully, beseechingly, as if he were a child in agony. Mentally pained. Inconsolable. Unending. He grappled for the door knob, frustrated, trying to pull himself back up. My mother stood over him, bending slightly, her hands dangling at his sides and not quite touching them, looking helpless and awkward. She wore the saddest and most uncertain expression on her face.
My brother, Bobby, is twenty years old, but most people wouldn’t know that. He looks forty and acts twelve. He’s handicapped, disabled, special. He’s like the kid who rides the short bus, or the one at lunch who everyone stares at, that doesn’t seem to realize that food is dripping from his face, trickling down his chin. He’s never dated a girl, driven a car, or even had a real friend. He is very alone, very bored, and very unmotivated.
I tend to blame my family. They always pampered him. During the cancer treatments, they went by his every whim, and even afterwards he still got whatever he wanted. Who could blame them? No one knew how long he would be here, for how long we should have him. We still don’t know. (Editor’s note: Bobby passed away on 5/11/2012; we had approximately 3 years left with him). If they had known, though, I am sure they would have done things differently; encouraged him to learn, to read, to write and sing, to show himself friendly and to think of others.
I remember when we were kids; I was penny and he was buck. When we played, Grammy would call Bobby “sick kitty” and I would be the “well kitty.” I don’t know if I ever fully realized that he was different in a bad way, and that other people saw him differently than we did. I knew that he was a picky eater; that he would scream at me for singing and pull my hair out when I upset him. If anyone beat him at video games, his temper would flare. He visited hospitals a lot, and we even lived at a Ronald McDonald house for several months. It was so much fun playing tea party with my grandma in the bath tub. She always tried to make sure that I didn’t feel neglected.
I also remember being sent away. They told me that it wouldn’t be long; that I would love being with my Aunts Debbie and Jill; that they would mail me (*letters) all the time, come see me soon, and would miss me terribly. (Editors note: I was about 3 years old when I was ‘sent away.’) Apparently, I got sick a lot, and if I got Bobby sick while he was receiving treatments, he could die.
Now it’s ten years ago. Bobby is cancer free. He is very thin, a little unsteady when he walks, his eyes just a tad crossed and his vocabulary severely limited, but he is living, breathing, and laughing again.
Now it’s a few years ago. We find out, after weeks of funny, episodic behavior that Bobby has epilepsy. This means that he will have to take even more medications than before. It will take some adjustment, but between my mom and grandma, Bobby will be taken care of. Yes, he will be taken care of, my mom and grandma can support each other, and I will just keep to myself.
Looking back, it’s last year. We’re in the hospital with Bobby. It’s about 12:00 in the morning and we’re waiting for the doctor to come in. Bobby’s shunt has been malfunctioning and he’s been falling over (because of it). He’s lying in the hospital bed quietly now, thumbing his fingers, a serious look on his face. But he’s not scared. Bobby tells everyone that he loves hospitals; they are like home to him, he says. A nurse who had been giving him a shot once asked if it was hurting him. “No,” he told the person, “I like it.” The man or woman probably thought that he was being sarcastic, but I know Bobby. He meant it.
So now he’s sitting there. I’m listening to music and trying to fall asleep. A female patient in the same room as us (we’re separated only by a curtain) has some sort of a stomach ailment. We can hear her moaning. Her son is sitting in the room with her, then pacing at times, talking on his cell phone. We are released late that night, after the doctor comes in saying that Bobby is fine. We drive home, turn off all the lights, and I fall into bed, exhausted and numb.
Now it’s today. Bobby is still trying to get off the floor. He has fall down seizures; they call them “grand mals.” He has to wear a helmet virtually all the time, since we don’t know when he is going to fall and wouldn’t want his shunt to get hurt. My mom is still trying to help him up; she seems at a loss to know what to do. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for her. I stand there and watch, thinking about the past – guessing at the future. It’s hard to look at him now. I can’t understand it, and it’s bewildering, but it seems that, until this moment, as I see him crawling on the floor like an infant, frustrated, embarrassed, crying, that I haven’t understood what life is really, actually like for him. It is hard. It is challenging. Only it wins. Every time he has fallen, every night he has spent in the hospital, it has won. It is winning now, beating him, hurting him, devastating him, exhausting him. Life is a bully. But I also realize something else: Bobby is strong. Bobby is the Florida palm tree that withstands each and every storm during hurricane season. Bobby is the last flower in bloom, the one that holds on to the cold and bitter end. Bobby is the branch that floats and does not sink. Bobby is strong. Bobby is brave. Bobby is resilient.
Bobby is an evergreen.
As a final editor’s note, I’ll mention that I read and typed all of this out very mechanically, operating in a manner that was as detached and robotic as possible, because it’s still impossible for me to really think of and remember Bobby in a personal kind of way without wanting to lose my fucking mind.
Brothers for life,