When I say that my life has been most atypical I’m not gloating or exaggerating at all, quite the opposite. I’ve been alive for over three decades now and there are still things that I haven’t done in life that some may take for granted, I try not to fret over it too much, it is what it is.
I never actually learned how to crawl as a baby, and instead skipped all the way to walking, I suppose that anecdote was a portent of things to come in my life, because three decades later I see myself having skipped the whole relationship, marriage, and having a child steps of life, skipping all the way into being essentially a single dad to a soon to be 25 year old—my brother.
Some of you know the tale, he’s not completely disabled, and even though we’re only seven years apart he is, in some ways, still a child, given his condition.
He requires guidance and help with some stuff, can’t quite cook for himself, and finds genuine joy in the simplests of things, such as chocolate or cookies. He can do the most amazing combos in fighting games, with a precision that goes way beyond what I’m able to pull, and yet at the time, he has difficulty stirring sugar on a coffee mug, and I need to constantly keep an eye on his toiletries because he won’t tell you if he’s running low on them.
Ever since our mother passed away I’ve taken a middle road, balancing my roles as both his older brother whilst taking the mantle of a parent role for him, becoming a semblance of a father figure and caretaker without forsaking that which I will always be, his brother.
Have I done a good job over the past two years? I hope so. I wasn’t given a handbook on how to do it. Technically, I never had a father figure in my life, sure, we lived with our father up to a certain point in our infancy, but that was a long, long time ago—it doesn’t serve for much of a reference.
My mother always gave us all the love and care she could muster—and then some more. She never considered him to be fully disabled, and that is a sentiment I both share and respect; yes, there is stuff he has a hard time doing, stuff he doesn’t seem to understand and care for, but there is so much that he can do—all he needs is the right spark.
One of her concerns before cancer took her life was his education, and that is perhaps, the one aspect where I’ve failed my duties. I’ve been so focused on ensuring that he has food on the table each day, dealing with the ever so tumultuous grind of the Venezuelan reality, and my continuous attempts to escape from this nightmare that I’ve been neglectful in making sure he’s studying something. Time is a precious and fleeting resource that he shouldn’t waste, I don’t want him to make the same mistake I did with regards to my studies.
He is often locked in the thoughts of that head of his that’s full of unbound potential within the solitude of his room that he likes so much. He doesn’t have any friends either, and that is something I want for him to have in the future as well, because friends are how I’ve been able to keep going. His innocence and naivety heavily clash with the gruesome and cruel reality of whatever is left of this country.
Hopefully, once we’re both outta here and start a new life away from all of this he’ll be able to open up more to the world, perhaps the change in scenery/environment and being able to meet new faces might just be what ignites the spark inside of him.
I pray and hope that one day, sooner than later, I can provide him with the means for him to find his role in this world, there’s so much he can do—I strongly believe that, I just need to build the foundations for him.
I’ve tried to talk to him over the past two years regarding this subject, asking him what he’d like to do or study. Gamedev, that was his answer last year. As such, I took some initial steps and contacted a few people for guidance so I could set him in the right path. His first steps, while very basic, were well received by him.
His enthusiasm for learning something new was intoxicating and it made me smile. I was very proud of him, but his interest once again waned, and I’ve been so absorbed in my other duties that I didn’t realize it until just now. I guess that because of the lack of a proper guide he gets frustrated when he gets stuck, and between all the stuff that I’m working on I haven’t been able to muster enough time to immerse myself in that field so that I can be of assistance to him as he continues learning.
Things have gotten complicated lately, but once things smooth out and our escape is set into further motion this will be a priority focus for me asap, it is what my mom would’ve wanted.
We may not have social skills, and we’re very clumsy, but we have peace, and you can’t put a price on that. We both are flawed, very flawed indeed, but I am grateful that we have a great relationship between us, because I’ve seen cases of more “normal” brothers that hate each other’s guts with such a passion, always locked in an eternal state of rivalry and conflict.
Our picturesque family on our mother’s side has been plagued with both bad father figures, and a myriad of cases of siblings always at odds with each other—some of which catalogue my brother and I as abnormal for how we are, yet they can’t function as a normal family for a single day even if their lives depended on it.
In perhaps the worst case, a conflict between two of my uncles escalated to such extents, that it not only worsened my grandmother’s frail health, it irreparably split the family in two camps.
That conflict, still ongoing despite one of the two belligerent actors having passed away, continues to this day. It took a huge toll on my mother’s health and well-being at its heyday. It is a very cruel tale of two brothers that were once very close to each other, irreparably separated over a family business dispute exacerbated by their respective entourages and by the eventual meddling of the socialist regime.
That’s a tale for another time, but it is perhaps, the reason as to why our mother left us with one empirical mandate: Do not ever fight with each other.
I can’t change my family, but I can opt to not repeat their mistakes. In light of the bad framework that I’ve experienced, the lack of father figures to look up to, and the cycle of brotherly hatred and contempt witnessed, I have taken great lengths to break the cycle, and instead chose the simplest, most logical outcome: be a good brother.
The two of us make a good team actually. Our daily water rations are a shared responsibility, one does dishes while the other showers, then we swap. I cook and he helps me restock on water, I clean the house and he disposes of the trash. When I’m cooking I let him assist me with simple tasks, with the hopes that he gets to learn the process a bit, and that he feels like he’s rightfully participating in the process.
Nowadays, he’s even able to help me do laundry and use my old coffee machine, baby steps, yes, but to see him slowly be able to do things that he didn’t or couldn’t do before brings a tear to my eye.
For someone so socially inept and flawed such as me, taking the mantle of a parental caretaker figure for my brother has been quite the experience. It is a privilege to be his big brother, I couldn’t have asked for a better brother myself, he is the greatest treasure my mother left me with—I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.
Perhaps, time and fate will set the course for a son of my own, when that happens, I’ll be glad to have counted with the experience of raising and taking care of my brother, I wish the same for him as well.