No Hero’s Journey

I cannot even begin to make sense of the events of the last week, let alone the last year. It will take me a long time, if ever, to process the horror, heartbreak, grief of dealing with my dysfunctional brother’s presence, the trip to take him back to Colorado, and now his absence.

I do not miss him, of course, he was too abusive (when I heard a noise outside my window last night, I got scared thinking he’d returned), but he was such a major part of my life for the past fifteen months that his absence looms large. I don’t understand how I reconnected with him, don’t understand why he treated me so badly, don’t understand why I thought it important for him and his father to forgive each other. (Except that for my entire life, the two of them have used me as the rope in their tug of war, and I needed to be done with both of them.)

I don’t even understand how I became the one to take him back to Colorado. I don’t remember the sequence of events leading up to the trip, though I do know I refused to let my siblings just toss him on the streets of this dusty, windy, and hellishly hot town. (Partly because I knew he wouldn’t stay away.) I also refused to let them get him thrown in jail where he certainly wouldn’t get help for his many mental disorders.

And so, somewhere along the line, I agreed to take him and the stuff he’d collected back to Colorado. It’s odd that I did so. The very thought of the trip terrified me. I didn’t know if I could put up with his relentlessness and nonstop abuse for all those miles and hours. Knowing how violent my reaction to his verbal abuse was, I feared me as much as I feared him, and I didn’t think we’d survive it. The trip was almost as bad as I thought it would be, and though we came close to an accident several times, we both did survive, probably because of all the prayers and well wishes people sent our way.

He kept opening the door to the car while I was driving (I think he thought he was opening the window, though I don’t really know). One time he climbed into the back seat to sleep on top of all of his stuff, and when he climbed back into the front, he climbed over me, making it impossible for me to see. I pulled over, and helped him get untangled. Because I had to push his foot, it seemed as if I pushed him out the door, and so he refused to get back in the car. He stared at me for a few minutes, then went into a field and fell asleep. I finally got him back in the car, but when he left the moving car a little later, I took off without waiting for him, thinking maybe it would scare him enough to behave.

When I went back, I found him with rescue workers from the fire department, screaming for water. Apparently, he’d fallen asleep by the side of the road while he waited for me. They wanted to arrest him, said a police car was on its way, but I begged and pleaded for them to let me take him to Fort Collins. (A repeat of the night before when I had to beg the cops to let me take him away rather than arrest him. I’d said the car was all packed; just let us go. And finally they did.) The fire folk expressed concern for me, and I told them I’d be fine, that I’d been dealing with him for the past fifteen months. And they too let me go.

My brother demanded that we stop so he could get cold water, and when I did so and gave him the bottle, he clubbed me with it. (I don’t know why, and later, when I told him what he had done, he didn’t know either. He didn’t believe he’d done it, not even when I showed him the huge bruises on my upper arm.) I wanted so much to leave him there, and even planned to call the police to come get him, but I reminded myself to keep focused on my goal. And so, we continued the terrible trip.

The only way I can make sense of any of this trauma is to think in terms of “The Hero’s Journey” with him playing all the roles except hero. His moods change so rapidly, it would have to be a fantasy story, where sometimes the hero is driving a dragon, sometimes a little boy, sometimes a lost soul.

But I am no hero. Heroes don’t cry all the way home.

People think it strange that I cried. Well, so do I — I figured I’d be relieved to be done with him, but he was once my brother. I know some of the tears were simply a way of washing away all the emotions I’d felt, both his and mine. Some of the tears were pure grief since my brother is lost to me — I don’t know who that stranger is. And some of the tears were just plain sorrow for our unsolvable problems, both his and mine.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Pricked Conscience

Thank you for all your prayers, thoughts, concern, love.

After I abandoned my dysfunctional brother on the streets of Fort Collins and drove the 1000 miles back to where I am caring for my 97-year-old father, all I could do was weep. I felt terrible that no one cared. I wondered how it was possible in a world of 7,184, 285,500 people, my brother could be so unloved. And then I realized the truth. I cared, and so did all of you. Not that it makes any difference to him (at least as far as I know), but it makes a difference to me.

Even though he ended up angry, abusive, demanding, it wasn’t always so. He’d been in my life from the moment I was born, and I’d looked up to him. I remember him as a radiant and charming child. A brilliant youth. A teenager who refused to let himself be beaten (with a belt, no less) into submission. A young man who felt at home no matter where he roamed. A middle-aged man who struggled with problems greater than his ability to solve.

I thought I wanted him out of my life, and I do. For the past fifteen months, he hounded me relentlessly, wanting more from me than I could ever have given him, though to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what he wanted. He settled for a place to camp in the garage and an occasional bag of groceries, but I knew that wasn’t enough. (As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t even solve my own problems, let alone his.)

At the end of the road in Colorado, as he stood there by the car drinking his bribe and exchanging a last few words, I mentioned that he always wanted one more thing from me but he never gave me anything.

“Yes, I did,” he responded. “I pricked your conscience.”

I didn’t think of that remark again until this morning when I got out of a safe and comfortable bed and remembered his saying he needed to find a place to camp by the railroad tracks. I flushed the toilet and remembered that he had to find a place to relieve himself out in the open. I took a cold drink from the refrigerator and remembered that his beverages could only be the temperature of the outside world. I fixed something to eat and remembered the dumpster he pulled his dinner from last night. I drove to the store and remembered how painful it was for him to walk because of his sciatica.

He used to scream, “You’re living like a millionaire while I have to live like a dog, and you don’t even appreciate it.” I always responded that millionaires didn’t have people knocking on their windows for attention dozens of times a night. But the truth is, he is right. I am living like a millionaire — warm bed, hot food, cold drinks, pristine toilet, kitchen, safety, comfort, and friends who care about me.

So thank you, all of you. You mean more to me than you will ever know.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

1000 Miles of Tears

tomWe coerced my dysfunctional, alcoholic brother into going back to Colorado. He’d kicked in the door between the house and the garage, and we had the cops threaten to put him in jail if he didn’t leave. We packed his stuff, didn’t even let him take the time to do it himself. I drove off at one o’clock in the morning, and drove straight through. It was a horrible, horrifying, and heartbreaking trip, even worse than I feared. But we got there safely, though I have several painful bruises that he had no memory of inflicting. (He’d never hit me before, though I had hit him, I’m ashamed to admit. I’m not violent, and hadn’t hit anyone since childhood until he came here with his multiple problems and no sense of boundaries.)

When we arrived, I spent the night in a motel. He slept in the car, but he was able to get a shower and put on clean clothes that morning. We unloaded his stuff and packed it in his storage unit (a unit that he may or may not still have access to. The owner said he wasn’t to go there any more, though my brother has a note from the owner’s wife that he has access every morning). Then we drove around, doing “just one more thing,” “just five more minutes,” “just one more stop.” My brother always pushes things, and that “one more thing” ended up being several hours of driving around. During the last couple of hours, he refused to leave the car. He was afraid of being homeless again. He begged me to get a motel room so he could get one more night of civilization and a shower. I refused. (I’d promised to get him a motel room for a week, but there is a law in that town that no one can rent a room for another person. The homeless shelter is pitifully under-bedded, and there was no mental health place to leave him.) I knew that staying a second night would result in another day of “just one more stop”s.

In the end, I had to bribe him with the promise of a six-pack of beer to get him to leave the car. After I bought the beer, he wanted us to go get something to eat, but I was tired. Sick of the whole mess. Had no appetite. Just wanted to leave.

We talked for a while, then he told me I shouldn’t drive far before getting a room, that he was worried about my falling asleep. This concern for me, the first he had shown in the fourteen months we were together, broke me. I started to cry. Then he told me several sights I should be sure to see, and I cried harder. “Do you think this is a fun trip for me?” I said. “It’s killing me. I don’t want to leave you here on the streets.” (Sort of egotistic of me, isn’t it, to expect him to care about my feelings when he was the one being abandoned?) He touched my hand, and my tears dripped like a desert rain. He expressed surprise that I cared, and I explained that of course I cared. I’d spent the past fourteen months trying to keep him off the streets, which is why I’d lobbied for his camping out in the garage.

I really had no other choice but to take him to Colorado. My father needed my sister to help take care of him since I couldn’t do it by myself, and her presence escalated my brother’s psychoses beyond anything I could handle. Besides, if my father continues to decline, my brother would have to leave soon any way. (Or so I told myself to justify my actions.)

I reached out for my brother’s hand, needing that one final touch, but he turned and walked away, tears of his own in his eyes.

I expected to be relieved when I finally drove off, but my tears continued to fall. I cried the entire 1000 miles back, thinking that as abusive as he’d been, he was my brother.  (“Was,” not “is,” as if he’d died or were about to die.) You’ll be horrified to learn that I drove straight back with but a two-hour stopover at a rest area. I didn’t see the point of getting a room for the night because I wouldn’t sleep, and besides, it felt wrong since he would be sleeping outside by the railroad tracks.

My bruises tell me I did the right thing, and yet I know that every time I go into the garage, I will be reminded of my brother living on the streets, reminded that I didn’t even stay to have a final meal with him.

Not my finest hour.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

It’s Done

No words. Just tears.

Help Please!

I am driving my brother to Colorado.  We left just after midnight (too long a story to tell pecking out on my phone) and I am driving straight through. Am in Colorado now and need to drive across the state. This has been a horrifying and heartbreaking trip. To make things worse,  I’m not sure he’ll let me leave him here since he’s afraid of being on the streets again.

If you are prayerful, please say a prayer for both of us. If not, please send good thoughts and wishes for . . . I don’t know. Maybe for  courage.

Sequoia National Forest

I accidentally ended up at the Sequoia National Forest over the weekend. I was headed . . . well, nowhere in particular, to tell the truth. I was driving on a winding road, unable to see where I’d been, unable to see where I was going. The road seemed never ending. I’d started out with a full tank of gas, and by the time I got down to a quarter of a tank, I began to wonder if I’d ever find a gas station, or any sign of civilization for that matter.

I took a turn around a corner, and there, in a tiny settlement of three or four houses, I saw a run-down market. I stopped to ask if there was a gas station up ahead. The woman asked me where I was going. I said I didn’t know. She gave me a strange look when I admitted I didn’t even know where I was. Finally she said I’d find a gas station at the end of the road to Lake Isobel.

Ah! I knew Lake Isobel from a brief perusal of an online map the night before, and I mentioned that I might be going to the lake. The woman shook her head and said the lake wasn’t that attractive. It was just desert. Then she suggested I turn left instead of right at Lake Isobel and go to Ponderosa.

I thanked her, and since I really didn’t have a destination in mind, I headed for Ponderosa.

Gorgeous scenery!

sequoia national forestFantastic road.

roadAs if that weren’t enough, I stopped at sign for the “Trail of a 100 Giants and found myself among the giant sequoias. Wooo. What a treat. It seemed like a natural cathedral to me, though most people acted as if they were at a carnival.

trail of 100 giants

At the end of a trail was a plaque:

sign

As I stared into the pool at the reflection of the sequoias, I reflected on . . . not much of anything. I was still in awe at what I’d seen and felt.

reflecting pool

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Have You Hugged a Tree Lately?

I did!

redwood

At Sequoia National Forest.

What an amazing trunk!

trunk

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Adventure!

Just checking in to let you know I am fine. Somehow I ended up at a barbecue at a winery last night, went to the ocean and watched the surf come in (or out), drove late into the night because I couldn’t find a motel or even any place to stop on a winding road. It’s checkout time now. I wonder where I will sleep tonight?

I hope your weekend is as fabulous as mine.

(This is short because I am pecking it out on my phone. Please excuse any typos.)

My Chariot Awaits!

I rented a car to take my brother back to Colorado, but he is not here, and a rental car is a terrible thing to waste. So I am taking off for the weekend. Will be going . . . anywhere. North perhaps.

I’m leaving in just a few minutes, but I know many of you are concerned about this situation with my brother, and I didn’t want you to think anything bad happened.

I’ll try to keep in touch, but if not, know that I am free for a few days.

Thank you all for your support during these traumatic years. I hope your weekend will be as wonderful as mine.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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A House of Ghosts

An online friend, someone who only knows me through my blog posts, emails, and projects we have worked on together, made an astute remark.

She said, in response to my blog about the double rainbow, “I do think you are more perceptible to the outside world and that life is moving forward when you get out of the house. You won’t find any possibilities in the house — you have to be able to get out when you can.” I found that comment interesting because I hadn’t noticed the deadness of this the house until the last few days. It’s always been a place of dying and grief, paranoia and imprisonment. I first visited this house to help with my dying mother. I came to stay after the death of my life mate/soul mate to help my elderly father and to get through my shockingly painful grief. For the first three years I was here, my father would set the burglar alarm around 7:00pm and he didn’t give me the alarm code, so I was basically a prisoner of his paranoia, and now my brother is making me a prisoner of his paranoia and psychoses.

ThiStarss deadness was especially apparent to me this morning. I went to pick up a rental vehicle to take my brother back to Colorado (a foolish waste of money, since he insists he doesn’t have time to get ready) and while I was sitting in that sparse office, I could feel my spirits rise. Since my brother refuses to go tomorrow, that means I have the vehicle for my own use, and I could go . . . wherever. During the long ride back here, I felt that optimism, and even after a confrontation with my brother, who claimed the SUV was too small, he couldn’t be ready, and various other ranting objections, I kept that feeling of optimism. But now that I’ve been back in the house a couple of hours, I feel the cement hardening around my feet and my heart, and I can barely muster the energy to . . . well, to do anything.

I never had much belief in ghosts, but this place does seem haunted, if only by my own unhappiness.

I don’t really have anywhere I want to go, but I think I’ll head out on the highway for a couple of hours, and see what I can see — maybe some stars. It’s supposed to be a good night for stargazing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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