And yet, I’m going to try because I need to get this off my chest.
I’m a writer (well, I think I am anyway) so writing my feelings and experiences down is cathartic for me and helps me to cope with some really big, really hard, often dark and really painful things.
One of the most painful things in my life is my relationship with my younger brother. We haven’t spoken (his insistence, not mine) for 4 years. Then my Dad unexpectedly died and we were forced to speak, really.
I remember that call to my brother – the first one he’d accepted in 4 longs years – and even telling you about it now makes my heart ache painfully.
I tried to ring Jay on the day Dad died – to reach out and hold close the family I had left. I knew Jay hated me – or…more so just didn’t think of me at all – because even hatred requires some energy…but for this one day, I had to try.
The phone rang and rang. It didn’t even go to voicemail, it just rang out.
I face-timed with Mom and I could see mirrored on her face the shockwaves of Dad’s death that were still travelling at light speed through the world and hitting us all in our own little corners of it; shaking our very foundations like a huge emotional earthquake.
Pure shock from the force and impact. This was so painful!
“Have you talked to your brother yet?” Mom implored, tears streaming down her lovely little moon face.
Inwardly I sighed. What she really meant was “have YOU called HIM yet and made sure JAY is OK?”
Yes Mom, I have.
“Yeah” I responded – hiding away my dejection and hurt that Jay always came first “I tried about an hour ago…nothing”
Mom nodded sadly “Maybe you can try again after we talk?”
Again, the bitterness rose up. Maybe I can try again, Mom? Jay has ignored me for FOUR YEARS but no one asks him if he tried to call me! Why is it always this way?
Again, I pushed it down. For you, Mom – I will try as many times as I need to.
“I’ll try again later today” I assured her.
Mom seemed comforted by that.
So…the afternoon came and with anxiety through the roof about what was to come, I looked repeatedly at the time on my phone screen and bit my lip as minutes went by.
I took a deep breath. It’s for Mom and it’s what Dad would want I reminded myself.
Another deep breath as I hit “Jay” on my phone contacts.
I wasn’t expecting him to answer. Four years of being rejected finally taught me not to wait with baited breath for his voice because it never came.
Instead, I looked around our living room and thought about tidying it before Alun got home.
…So hearing Jay’s patented “hey” on the phone shocked me.
Jay actually answered my call.
Finally hearing his voice after all this time…it felt…painful. It was bittersweet. My heart leapt at hearing his voice again. I was sooo excited, so blessed and yet so heartbroken to hear his brokenness transmit in perfect clarity through the phone. I was angry too that I was so happy – this is someone who kicks me in the face when I’m down – and someone who makes sure he has boots on before he does it – why am I so happy to hear from him?
I felt like a loyal dog, pleased that the master who beat him was now giving him an absent-minded pat on the head.
A long silence stretched out.
Jay didn’t prompt the way a caring person would. No “Hello?” or “are you there?” no gentle “you ok?”
Silence that felt like a huge ocean flowing between us. An ocean of time and space; there was that much ‘water under the bridge’ it would take a sturdy sea vessel to even attempt to cross it and years of steady travel, guided by the stars.
I tried to speak.
I tried to force the lump in my throat to go down so I could get words out. It was so hard.
I wiped the rivers of tears away from my face with the back of my hand. I gulped.
This was so f*cking hard.
I cleared my throat and tried again.
At least he hasn’t hung up? The hopeful part of me offered.
Well yes. There’s that.
“Jay” I finally got a word out. The fact that it was his name surprised me.
…so did the next 3 words I managed to utter:
“I’m so sorry“
Why did I say that?
I pressed my phone as close to my ear as it would allow, holding my breath and hoping with all my might for a connection.
Talk to me, Jay. Our Dad has just died!!! Surely you have something to say about it. Please. Please talk to me.
No dial tone so I had to assume he was still there.
My offering had not been accepted and Jay’s silence demanded more.
I was heavily crying now. Ugly crying – the kind where snot runs down your face and you just don’t care anymore because you’ve passed the point of no return in your profound hurt.
“Jay” I cried. I was almost wail-screaming the words now, so desperate was I to reach this distant being “I’M SO VERY SORRY!!!” I cried hard, the words came out in a hysterical jumble of sounds “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” I repeated over and over.
I don’t know what else to give you, Jay.
I’m literally at my wit’s end.
What more can I do to get you to reach back?
I hiccupped and sobbed.
For fuck’s sakes, Jay.
I was also LIVID with myself for begging and for apologising. It was JAY who cut ME off 4 years ago. I’d apologised enough.
I heard Jay sigh.
“How are you?” I tried again. One last hurrah before I completely fell apart.
This, he accepted.
Maybe I should have started with a question?
“I’m…I’m not doing great”
Well of course you’re not…we just lost our Dad.
Yet, the hope that rises whenever Jay offers even the tiniest morsel of attention to me squeezed my heart tight and forced out the rushed sentence:
“I know, Jay. I know. We lost our Dad” more crying from me.
More silence from Jay.
Are you crying too? Is that why you aren’t talking to me?
In case it was, I pushed on. Hopeful. Hurting. Aching for a connection with my younger sibling in this foreign, absurd moment in time where we had both lost one of the people most precious to us.
“I am here for you any time” I said. My voice more steady – more comfortable in a familiar role I had played all my life – the protective big sister.
“Even if it’s 1 in the morning, Jay – you can call me. I will listen. I will always be here for you. I love you“
I waited, wiping my nose on the collar of my pyjama top.
“Okay” Jay said.
Let it go, JD. At least he said something. I chided myself.
“Okay” I echoed; my heart broken into fine ribbons because it was anything but.
Jay hung up.
I cried all afternoon.
I’m not sure what hurt most that day…that I’d lost my Dad or that I’d long ago lost my brother.
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