I find it interesting that the day after I wrote about trying to disconnect emotionally from my brother, I found this quote by José N. Harris from his book Mi Vida: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love posted all over Facebook:
“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”
It sounds wonderful — just walk away from everything bad in your life and be happy. Maybe it works for some people, but I have never been able to do it. I couldn’t walk away from the end of life drama when my mother was dying, and believe me, there was plenty of drama. (At one point I did walk out, but there were others around to take care of her, and I did eventually go back.) I didn’t walk away from the end of life drama when my life mate/soul mate was dying. I just sort of folded into myself and endured the horror of his long illness as best as I could. I can’t walk away from the drama of my father’s old age. Even though he is but a month shy of his 97th birthday and is growing feeble and hard of hearing, he is as strong willed as ever, and that in itself creates drama. Nor can I walk away from my brother, at least not yet. His problems and the drama that surrounds him are not in my power to solve, so after my father is gone and I am free to find whatever it is that I want to find, I will probably drive away and not look back.
Still, for now, I am learning a lot from all this drama. Compassion. Patience. Understanding — specifically, how to put aside my idea of what someone needs and try to understand what they truly need.
In my brother’s case, some needs are simple, such as showers. Although he is homeless, he is fastidious. He’d planned to camp out in the wilderness, but there are no showers in the desert. (It makes me wonder if, in all the rhetoric of helping the homeless, anyone ever went and asked them what they needed. I bet whatever it is they need, it isn’t what the politicians think it is.) My father doesn’t want my brother in the house, but I sneak him in two or three days a week to take a shower. It seems the humane thing to do. And I’m sure my father wouldn’t object if he knew after the fact. He just doesn’t want to have to deal with my brother’s dramas.
Other of my brother’s needs are beyond my comprehension because they are not my needs. And like all of us, he is a mass of contradictions that make him even more incomprehensible. He has no objection to eating pizza from a dumpster, for example, but he won’t eat anything I have touched.
I have walked away from the drama that erstwhile friends created, since they no longer added anything to my life, but is it admirable to walk away from everything that is bad in one’s life? Sometimes I feel like just taking off, leaving my father and brother to fend for themselves, and yet, and yet . . .
Perhaps I am where I am supposed to be. Perhaps I still have lessons to learn, such as how to be happy and at peace even when all around me is a storm of chaos. Perhaps I can make their lives better, even if in a small way.
And then again, maybe I’m fooling myself. But if I am, would I 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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.