Saturday, April 3, 2010

Notes on Loosing a brother

I grew up believing my brother was a God. Incredibly smart, multi-talented and good looking, he was everything I aspired to but knew I could never be. Concert violinist, world class photographer, brilliant student, surfer, guitarist, and general all around cool guy.

Whenever I had trouble with math, or spelling or ANY school project I'd hear how great my brother was ... and how stupid I am.

Mom to me ...
"You can't do simple arithmetic?! Your brother does advanced Algebra! Why can't you be more like Dick?"

Mom to me ...
"You can't do your multiplication tables?! God you're stupid! In Holland I had them ALL memorized by the time I was six!"

My brother AND my Mom could do EVERYTHING better than me. What kid could compete with that much talent? Looking back now, my brother's 7 year's old than I am, and my mom was 36 years older, so I was being set up for failure.

At age six I gave up and accepted the fact of my stupidity.

I adored my brother, any attention he gave me was like a gift. I loved the fact that this amazing person was "MY" brother. I always wanted to be around him. I'm sure he thought me a royal pain in the tush.

The summer I turned four, I got a hold of one of Dick's old swimming trunks. I thought if I wore them without a girl's swimming top, I could will myself into a boy. I had really short hair at the time, and a number of the neighbors thought I was a boy, which only served to fuel my fantasy.

One morning while speeding down the sidewalk in my tricycle, I landed in our neighbor's rose bushes. I ran into the house, crying my eyes out. As my Mom pulled the thorns out one by one, she told me I wouldn't have been hurt as bad if I'd been wearing a top or blouse. From that day on I always wore a top.

My brother's bedroom and mine were connected by a bathroom in the middle. I loved peering into my brother's room from our adjacent bathroom. His room was full of interesting looking books, models he'd made, neat toys and other fascinating things.

For a while he got into keeping aquariums. My Dad built a floor to ceiling wall of shelves to hold all Dick's fish tanks. I loved the sound the pumps made at night, and the pretty colors of all the fish when the lights were on.

My brother was the best part of my childhood, the person I most admired and believed in. I felt safe when he was around, and proud that we were related. I would have done anything for him and defended him with my life.

In 1969, when my brother turned 21, (back in the days when you had to be 21 to be considered an adult) he moved out of the house. He and our Mother did not get along. That's sort of an understatement actually. His life at home was a living hell. Both of ours were.

I understood why he needed to leave, and was happy for him. I hoped and prayed one day he would come back to rescue me from hell. I was 13 at the time. It never happened, and though I've tried in so many ways to have a close relationship with my brother, from that day on he's always kept me at arm's length.

From time to time, between marriages and jobs, Dick's dropped into my life for a day or a week. He took me to a Star Trek movie after he divorced his second wife Linda, which really blew my mind. In the end he's always returned to keeping me at distance.

He married two of my friends, is still married to one. Used my car for a year, took jobs I helped him get ... but was still mostly unreachable. At which point I assumed it was me.

When I recommended him to work with me at D-Link I agreed to no wage increases while he was there. Something I only told my Father. I remember when a coworker made fat jokes about me, that my brother always laughed with with him. One day my Dad had been there when they were joking about me, and found me crying at my desk.

Dad to me ...
"Do you want me to talk to your brother? You know he doesn't mean it."

Me to Dad ...
"What's the point? I am fat. And yes he does mean it. Even if he didn't start the conversation, he certainly finished it."

Dad to Me ...
"You're not that fat Shrimpy (his pet name for me) and you're not ugly." he gave me one of his patented bone crushing bear hugs. "So stop crying."

My Dad was dying at the time, and I knew it. Long story that. Yet he still took the time to see his kids at work. He died a month later, at home in his bed. The day before he died, Dad came to the office to take my brother and I to lunch. My brother begged off.

They day my Mom gave my brother the keys to my Dad's VW it felt as if Dad died again. He was so much a part of that car. I hadn't cried when Dad died, but cried while preparing the car for my brother. After Dick left with Dad's car I cried for hours on end. For years afterward, I cried every time I heard a Volkswagen drive down our street.

Within days of Dad's death, my brother moved to Colorado. That was over 21 years ago. I've seen him once since, when Mom died in 1994.

For a while I wrote letters, which he rarely answered. Eventually I wrote his wife Angie, who always answered. Mom became too sick and I had to quit my job to care for her. My health started going down hill. Mom died, and I was in and out of hospitals. Some days I had little or nothing to eat, I got food from a local non profit ... it was a bleak time.

My car broke down, and the breaks needed fixing. The owner of the gas station I'd been going to for the past 15 years said he'd repair it for free. He said your my family had been good customers and he liked my Dad. Amazing kindness and the darkest of moments.

Through all the times in my life ... good, bad, indifferent ... I'd always believed that one day my brother and I would connect again as family. He was, and still is, the person I most admire in life. There's not a day that goes by when I don't miss him.

On January 6, 2010 I found my Brother on FaceBook. I was overjoyed. I immediately sent a friend request and hoped this could be a new beginning for us. Eight hours later his FaceBook page had been taken down. A day or so later he emailed me, saying he was busy but would get back to me soon.

Good to hear from you. Sorry about Facebook, but it is just not my thing. Got talked into joining and it has been way over the top.

Who are these people! I'll send you an other email soon.


~ The promised email never arrived ~

The whole FaceBook thing really threw me for a loop, I cried constantly afterward. I hadn't expected that sort of response, and ruminated about it for days. Two sentences kept repeating over and over in my brain "Why doesn't he like me?" and "What did I do wrong?"

After a week of crying to the point of dehydration, near constant melt downs and acting like a total fool, I decided to write a letter to my brother. Fearing the worst, no response or bad response ... I had the mother of all panic attacks and ended up in E.R. with tachycardia and a blood pressure of 230/200.

I don't want anyone to think I went over the deep end because of what my brother did or didn't say. As that's not the case. Last year I watched my father-in-law (and dearest friend) die ... followed six months later by my brother-in-law Tom's death to stage IV melanoma in our home. (He did hospice)

Not that we were close, but Tom's death affected me deeply. It forced me to look at the distance between my own brother and myself. Facing so many losses in such a short period of time, really messed with my mind.

So armed with a soul shattering need for answers ... and bolstered by a healthy dose of Lorazepam (supplied by an understanding Kaiser Permanente E.R. doctor) I finished my letter and sent it out.

Trying to Reconnect for the Last Time

Sun, Jan24, 2010 at 5:40PM,
Jeanne Barkemeijer de Wit wrote:

Dearest Dick:
It's been way too many years since either one of us have spoken, let alone kept in touch in anything other than a cursory manor. So much time has passed, I wonder if either one of us would recognize the other if we happened to pass on the street.

I don't understand why there's no real connection between the two of us. I don't understand why you disconnected the phone number you gave me years ago, and never gave me a new one, let alone call. While it may be coincidental, it felt really weird to have you shut down your FaceBook page immediately after receiving my friend request. I don't understand why you never acknowledge gifts, respond to letters or answer my emails ... other than to say you're busy and you'll get back to me ... which of course you never do.

If you no longer desire further contact, I can obviously live with that, as that's more or less the way things have felt like to me for a very long time. But could you please get that message across honestly and directly. Simply tell me to stop trying to contact you and I promise you'll never hear from me again. If you you still want to know your sister, that's great."

I remember you as the best part of a phenomenally screwed up and painful childhood. You were the person I always looked up to, admired, and wished I could be like. Whenever I felt life was hopeless, I took solace in the knowledge that everything I believed good in our family, resided in you. I'd love the opportunity to get to know that person again. Because I've really missed having him in my life.

If you and Ang need a rest, and if the idea of reconnecting with the weird side of your family intrigues you ... we own a really large house with extra rooms and all the amenities, all geared to tall people. (Including three state of the art Sony Bravia digital HD televisions, extra large sofas, chairs, and beds, ultra high speed Internet, wireless WAN/LAN, multiple computers, enclosed 10 person jacuzzi, tricked out patio, tons of software, musical instruments, cameras etc., and more) If you're interested in a reunion and/or you'd also like to see Dirk ... I'll gladly send tickets for the both of you to fly over to OC. You can stay as little or as long as you wish.

Regardless of your decision, please don't blow me off or tell me you're too busy to respond. That excuse was old 10 years ago. So please let me know, one way or an other, where the two of us stand, and if I need to stop contacting you.

Love Always,

On Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 8:30 AM, Dick Barkemeijer de Wit wrote:

Just a quick note. My pc crashed. Have gone over to a friends house to use their computer. Just wanted to let you know I haven't forgotten about you. Not putting you off. No outside computer access at work and I'll be in training for the next three days and working on Sat. Hope to have a working pc late Sun. Get back to you as soon as I can. Hope you understand. Have to go, long drive to the training center."

~ the promised email never arrived ~

Thu, Mar 11, 2010 4:22PM,
Jeanne Barkemeijer de Wit wrote:

I hope you're OK.

While I may just be restating the obvious, I've finally gotten it through my head that you don't want a relationship or contact with me. I wish I knew why in the hell that is, but it's kind'a clear you're never going to share that info with me.

Truth be told I'm tired of waiting for a response from you (good bad or indifferent). Life's too damned short to be spent waiting for something that never comes.

That said, I won't be bothering you with emails or letters any more. My love and good wishes go to you and Angie both. I hope life grants you only good things.

Love and Care,

Thus ended decades of trying to get close to the person I loved most in my immediate family.

~ To date I haven't receive any type of response from my brother ~
~ I no longer expect one ~

For decades I've always thought there was something wrong with me, that my brother was ashamed of me, how I looked, or that something I'd said, not said, done, or didn't do properly, caused the distance to widen between us.

The way things now stand, I have no relationship with my brother. In reality, I haven't had one in decades. I've been living in a dream for more years than I care to say. A dream where I had a brother who cared about me as much as I cared about him.

Now that I'm forced to accept that no relationship exists between my brother and myself, it feels as if he died. I feel homeless and adrift. I still love my brother, and I miss him more than I have words to express. I always will.

I remember my brother as tall, good looking, wildly talented, funny, witty and impossibly smart. I'll always think of him as the coolest person I ever knew, and the best part of my childhood. I'm grateful for having had him in my life, if even for a brief time.

God willing, one day, my brother (or someone he knows) will take the time to tell me why he chose to exile me from his life.

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