When I was little I had a big brother. He was grown and mostly out of the house but he was around for periods of time up until we moved when I was approximately ten years old. I had other siblings, one sister who ran away when she was almost eighteen and I hadn't met yet, another sister much older than I who was more like an aunt at the time because of the age difference, and another older brother who took great delight at the time in picking on his younger sibling.
I so loved my eldest brother. He cooked me special meals, stood up for me whenever someone hurt me, and brought me presents when returning home.
We had two houses on my parents old property. We had the old house and up the hill we had the new house. The old house was a beautiful old farm house that came with the property when they purchased it and the new house was the one my dad built himself. My dad had worked in many aspects of construction and they were able to build and fix up properties, saving a tidy sum along the way. However, this won't be a frugal post about saving money, learning a trade, or property improvement and real estate. It's much more personal.
When my brother was not in a big city far away from our acreage he stayed in the big upstairs bedroom in the old house where I was born. The rest of us lived up the hill in the new house which my brother referred to as the shoebox for it's basic shape and lack of interest.
I clung to my big brother and tried to spend every moment with him. We cooked together and hung out in his room. I used to sit on the natural stone slabs that were placed in the hill as stairs and wait for him to realize I was waiting. I listened to the sounds of his radio drifting down and caught glimpses of him dancing past the windows. Eventually he would feel my little eyes boring into him and say, "Hey, how long have you been down there? Come on up."
We listened to albums, we played games, he read to me, and tucked me in at night. He cooked crab cakes and shrimp for us. We made Christmas cookies but we didn't have any cookie cutters so we had to cut all of those shapes out with butter knives.
Once he got into a huge shouting match with our dad. Well, it really wasn't a match because our dad was doing all the shouting. I don't remember what it was about because it was long ago and I was very little. What I do remember is hiding under the kitchen table while the voices escalated. When it became really severe I jumped out and yelled at my dad, "I love my brother! Leave him alone!" I was sent to bed for my efforts. My brother came in quietly later to comfort me. I didn't understand why I got in trouble.
When I was a small shy child in first grade a high school kid molested me on the school bus. It was horrible and I was scared. I told my parents and my eldest brother. My parents had issues of their own I suppose. They didn't know how to conduct themselves sometimes, mostly they just retreated. My mom said, "Why didn't you just hit him with your lunchbox?" That's a sentence that has certainly stuck with me for life. My father just gave me a disapproving look like I had done something wrong. My brother looked at them and shook his head, he looked at me and then he took off through the woods in the direction of the the house I had described as the place where the guy had his bus stop. No one ever mentioned the incident again in my house, but nobody ever touched me again on the bus. I shudder to think of how things would have turned out if I didn't have his help there. I'll never know what he did.
I was in high school when my brother told me he was gay. It didn't change my love for him one bit. I was out of my parents house when I learned he had AIDS. When he died I was living in a detached garage with no bathroom or kitchen with my three small children. We had to walk to my parents house next door for facilities. I had nowhere else to go, no job, no money. I couldn't be there for him in his final days. I couldn't afford to make the trip when he died. I was heartbroken, yet I had to go on for I was in survival mode. I found out he passed one afternoon and that evening I had a midterm exam in Sociology. In a fog I went to class, telling no-one of my inner pain and carried on.
My mother, ever private, told me if I had to tell anyone at all to tell them it was cancer and not to mention AIDS. This was when there was such an uproar over AIDS on every news channel. I also found that my parents had prejudices of their own. My mother actually gave me a lecture on why I shouldn't have anal sex. Can you imagine anything so embarrassing? Mother, I'm a straight female, I don't think you need to worry about that.
Fast forward a decade. I had completed my two year degree but not pursued it further because I had settled for retail management. I bought a house and worked 40 to 70 hours a week. The children were older and finances had improved (so I thought at the time) but we were deep in debt.
My son wanted to talk to me alone. He seemed so nervous. My thoughts immediately turned to what he may have done. I was so worried until he finally said, "Mom, I'm gay."
I laughed and gave him a big hug, "Oh that's all? I love you." I said, "I was afraid you were going to give me bad news." My son had officially come out at thirteen with no shouting matches, no threats, and no tears. I didn't take on a cloak of prejudice from my forebears. I only kept the love.
My dad came to the house to discuss his financial plans. He was gifting each grandchild with a small amount of money for college or vehicle expenses. He said, "I guess I will still give your son some money even though he's gay. You're letting him be like this? It killed your brother you know."
"No dad," I snapped angrily, "Being gay didn't kill my brother. AIDS killed my brother!"
I loved my brother and I love all of my children. I will always love them. I'm proud my son felt safe, and loved enough to come out and state who he was at thirteen. I know from experience, from conversations with my brother and son and friends that it is not a lifestyle choice. You are born that way.
I wish I could rid the world of prejudice and hate and ignorance and silly feuds and war. Life can be way too short. Gather all the love you can. After all, love is all you can take with you.
In a perfect world people would just be accepted for who they are. It breaks my heart to hear of teen suicides, and bullying, and to hear about kids who have to hide who they are around their families. I wish all children were allowed the confidence to live as they want to live.
If you've read this far, I'm giving you homework. Go hug your children/siblings/spouse/parents...Give huge bundles of love to everyone important to you. Life is all too fleeting. Love unconditionally, it's important. Please teach tolerance and share love.