Sunday, June 17, 2007

My crazy brother

A phone call from one brother informed that he’d spoken with his institutionalized twin and given him my phone number. A few minutes later the other phone rang. It was the brother completely devoid of social skills.

“I just heard you have cancer. I wanted to call since I don’t know how much longer I can.”

True, there can’t be many lives more empty or bleak than his; wheelchair bound, alone, rarely venturing out even onto the hospital grounds for sun and fresh air. Still, his complete lack of empathy was more than I could stand. “I’m not dead yet,” I bristled, and ended the call as quickly as I could.

“He’s limited,” my nephew points out.

Limited is a good word for it. He’s frozen in his limitedness, and I suppose it’s futile to expect anything from him at all.

But it wasn’t always so. He was a boy with limitations, but also with humor and spirit and some desire to participate. Where did that get lost? Why did he give in so completely to his victim status? Was there a key point when he could have turned back from blame and bitterness and taken some interest in his future? I’ve got my ideas about what external forces undermined his sense of self and responsibility, but I can’t help but feel he dropped the ball and gave up on his own life.

I’ve long felt he takes perverse pleasure in doing and being nothing. It’s as if he’s saying, “See, I told you, I really couldn’t get past this.” For him it was literally “all” or “nothing”. It’s the ultimate form of stubbornness. In holding up his failure for all to see, he’s robbed himself of any good feelings he might experience from struggling to come up with something he could do.

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