It’s been almost three years since I’ve assumed the role of pseudo-parent to take care of my brother, something I promised my mom I’d do—and will continue to do so until I draw my last breath. I normally don’t publicly talk much about him because he deserves privacy, so this post is a look at that limited, simple, and innocent world of his from my perspective.
My mother didn’t have much in life, she was a great and successful doctor not because she made a lot of money, but because of the amount of lives she managed to improve and save over her entire medical career. Members of her own family have often take jabs at her ‘lack of success’ because she didn’t have much money or left much properties beyond this unfinished apartment and a banged up vehicle that was passed down to her—going as far as to deem her a ‘frustrated woman’ behind my back long after her passing. But what they’ll never understand, in their skewed and foul way of thinking, is that she left me with a treasure most invaluable, my brother.
Flawed as he is, he is the best thing I have in my life, the one good thing amidst all the pain and mental anguish that I’ve gone through over the past years. I still remember when I used to tell my parents that I wanted a brother a long time ago, back when they were still together.
When I was about five or six years old, I would constantly ask my parents that I wanted a brother, unaware of how bad things were for my mom back when we lived in the city of Punto Fijo, oblivious to the full extent of the pain and sorrow that she suffered after a preeclampsia caused her to miscarriage, and naturally ignorant and clueless as to how were brothers made in the first place.
Then one day, when they were both picking me up from school, they gave me the good news when I was on the back of my father’s car.
Fast forward a few months and there we were, inside a small medical center in Punta Cardon at 2 a.m. that’s when I first laid eyes on that small and pinkish prematurely born baby. We’ve had our fair share of adventures despite all the complications and hardships we’ve gone through over the first twenty five years of his life. Today, that once round pink baby now almost matches me in height.
If high school was a bad time for me then I can imagine how harder it was for him. In addition to his mental condition he was diagnosed with an Arnold Chiari malformation in 2011, which he managed to beat following a very delicate brain surgery and a long and difficult recovery process that left him a scar that made him prone to bullying during his last years of high school—setting him back one full year on his studies while at it.
The whole ordeal did made him more insecure than he was, my mom taught him to stop carrying so much about it, after all, we did learn from our uncle (who had neurofibromatosis) not to care and judge a person over their appearance—while my mom was the ‘negra’ of the family simply because her skin tone was more on my grandmother’s side instead of my grandfather’s like her two sisters.
For a 33 year old man with barely any professional education I’m pretty broken and useless in many regards, and so is he. Yet, ever since cancer began to seriously deteriorate our mother’s health we’ve been facing the world together, and we’ve become a team that complements each other’s deficiencies to the best of our abilities. Individually, we’d be done for already, but together, we might just have a fighting chance.
My brother’s mental condition doesn’t let him quite fend for himself, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely disabled to the point of requiring constant attention and assistance. He’s a grown up adult, but still a child in many regards. He can pull the most amazing fighting game combos (when the game piques his interest), but has trouble stirring sugar on his cup of coffee. He’s able to help me do the dishes, but needs help cleaning his room. He can explain to you all of the nuances of the combat system in Pokemon games, but has trouble keeping track of his toiletries or remembering certain things.
In a country that’s all but a failed state, where everyone is out for himself, and where no one stays sane and pure anymore, his innocence and kindness is refreshing and worth fighting for. He is very noble, to the point that he doesn’t hesitate to try and help if it’s something that he can do—when it’s something that goes beyond his perceived scope, then he might freeze in panic and get stuck on that head of his.
That is why whenever I feel down, depressed, or melancholic (which happens more often that I’d like to admit) I take effort in not showing any signs to him, because I don’t want him to get worried. After all that happened with my mom and her cancer, he gets rapidly worried if he sees me with so much as a mild headache. Heck, when this whole COVID-19 pandemic started, me sneezing would instantly terrify him, even if the sneezing was caused by detergent or my allergies.
I’ve said in the past that I strongly believe that he’s definitely way smarter than me, not like I’m that smart anyways, but still. He has the potential to do so much, but he is often trapped in his thoughts, and his mental condition greatly shackles him.
His extreme naivety and innocence makes his needs and desires simpler than most people. While many around his age may want a multitude of things, ranging from the material to fame and fortune, or even politics or what have you, he’s more than happy with having the simple, specific things that he loves.
He’s never expressed a need for designer clothes, a need for new devices, or luxuries of any kind. Much like a child, things like Pokemon, Super Smash Bros, and chocolate are among that which fascinate him the most instead. I did promise I’d get him a Nintendo Switch, but they’re a tad bit expensive here, so that’s something that may have to wait till we’re outta here.
I am aware that it is hard for him to express himself beyond what he finds himself comfortable with. Many of our conversations are pretty much one sided, with his responses often being monosyllabic in nature (I remember being sorta like this in my late teen years, in a way I still am like that today, especially in social situations which I still don’t quite grasp).
He has trouble looking at you in the eye when conversing, just like me—but boy, when you do find a topic of conversation that he is comfortable talking about, he will really open up and speak his mind out, even if he sometimes struggles with the intonation of his words. Sometimes he does open up a bit more, but he rapidly puts his headphones on and goes back into his shell.
When it comes to habits and routines, he’s even more inflexible than I am. I’ve always let him choose what to eat the next day for lunch, but at this point I can predict what he wants me to cook, although I sometimes try to spice things up whenever our budget allows for it. Our daily water ration routines are another example of that structured nature of his, and even when he goes to bed he needs to follow his routine, to the point that he doesn’t even let me turn off his bedroom’s lights (this apartment is so badly done that the switch that controls his bedroom’s lights is actually on the living room—it’s a long story).
His isolation is a cause of concern for me, because he doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to. The state of the world doesn’t help much with this regard either, and ever since this pandemic began I’ve noticed him being more withdrawn and confined than before. We do have a shared video game console that’s in my bedroom, before, he’d normally come and play and we’d spend the afternoon or evening together, but now he prefers just being in his room playing games with his extremely old laptop.
I became pretty isolated and devoid of social interactions ever since we moved to Caracas in 1999, with video games being both my haven and a sort of window to the outside world, up until the 2nd half of the 2010s. Whatever your stance about GamerGate is, it did have the byproduct of making social outcasts like me open up more to the world. Me, writing stuff like this a few years ago? Hopping on a voice call with my lispy voice and speaking in broken English? No way, impossible. Today I’ll gladly torture you in a voice call with my
beautiful horrendous karaoke. I’m still socially inept, though.
At the lack of a more ‘normie’ socializing and whatnot, I’d love for my brother to have something like that as well—then again, I have been far too long on the internet to understand that while there’s good, there’s also abject cruelty. Yeah, he’s twenty five years old, but he’s mentally too innocent. Sometimes I do feel like I overprotect him, and I may pamper and spoil him too much—then again I wasn’t exactly given a handbook in how to be both a parental figure and big brother at the same time.
He deserves more, he deserves a normal happy life, he deserved having my mother’s care, but fate conspired against him in many ways and now he’s stuck with me, someone barely functional who stumbles more often than he admits, someone who’s quite broken and is trying to glue himself back together into a force of good in this world, someone pretty much weak that has to be strong for the two of us.
Just because he can’t cook doesn’t mean he has to feel useless. I’ve found ways for him to assist me when I cook our meals, from washing the vegetables, keeping track of time, to helping me bread his chicken or taste test the spaghetti sauce. Not only does it make him get out of his room for a few minutes, but in my perception, making him participate turns preparing our lunch into a team effort.
Trying to get him out of this country has been the hardest thing in my life. I failed to save my mom from her cancer, but I will keep trying to get my brother outta here over and over again. He is not my son and he is over 21, that makes tying him to a prospective visa with my name quite hard, if not outright impossible. I worked at an Embassy for three years, so I’ve always been aware of these international ‘standards’ when it comes to consular matters, if I were to catalogue them as such.
I would not hesitate to damn myself a thousand times and for all eternity if it meant salvation and a life full of happiness for my brother.
Yes, he is under my care, but from a moral and personal standpoint, not from a legal one. To become his legal guardian would strip and cripple his rights for life, and like I said once before, this was something my mother never wanted to do, and I will honor that.
What if I do that and something happens to me in the future? What becomes of him then? Between you and me. My mom and her youngest brother (my uncle with neurofibromatosis) both died of rare sarcomas, and I seem to be the only one in my family worried about this fact. Coincidentally, my late uncle’s two Childs, my brother, and myself make the quartet of the ‘abnormal’, as per my mother’s family’s cataloguing, and we four are kinda autistic. There’s also a history of cardiac problems in my father’s family (which he hasn’t given me much information about), so, yeah, you get where I’m going with this.
Getting him to study is where I’ve dropped the ball bigtime. My mom’s plan was for him to study beyond high school as soon as we’d escape from this country—then she got diagnosed with cancer, and you know the rest. He expressed a desire to learn how to develop video games, and to that end I sought guidance from a few people in order to get my brother on the right path.
I have, unfortunately, been too busy trying to get us outta here that I haven’t been there to help him with this regard lately, and my deficient knowledge in this field makes me a poor guide for him, so he’s kind of wandered off. Not to mention that he has to use my desktop computer for his learning because his laptop is too old for this regard—and I’ve been hogging it on lately while working on my novel and other things.
My family calls him ‘lead on my wings’, but he’s not. Every time he smiles I get a reminder of that which I’m fighting for, of the future that I need to continue building for him. I remain resolute that one day he will be able to unshackle that mind of his and find his role in this world, who knows, maybe he will end up working on a video game RPG like he mentioned.
Whatever road he takes, I will be there for him, now and always.