Monday, 8 April 2013

Fond memories.

My father rang last night. He’s getting old and clearly has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. He started talking about my brother. The one that I don’t talk to any more. Have you ever had one of those people in your life, that no matter how many chances you give them, they always, always, always let you down? And when they do, they take your money, rob your house, and cost you gallons of tears and immeasurable heartache. That would be my brother.
A long time ago I drew a line around him and decided that I would no longer buy into his life nor let him into mine. He went through the same crap that we all did; some of us worse than him and we coped. We still cope.
As an example, at my mother’s funeral he spent the whole weekend bragging about how much money he earned now and when our sister suggested he contribute his quarter of the funeral costs, he got in his car and drove away. He didn’t pay anything. I paid the entire amount. It seemed unfair to ask the others to contribute if he didn’t. Dad didn’t contribute either. He sold mum’s rings and bought something to ‘remember her by’. It was a DVR. He has two daughters, three granddaughters and a great-granddaughter. He could have given the rings to any of us. He didn’t. I joked to my sister that I should ask him to put a note on the DVR that I want it when he dies, so that I have something to remember mum by.
Dad told this story on the phone about how this brother had been in trouble with drink recently and had turned his life around. ‘What the?’ I’m thinking. When?
Oh, Dad says, I remember when he showed up at the house weighting six stone and I took him in and turned his life around.
I was speechless, but I managed to say that wasn’t how I remembered it.
I was there. As the youngest, I was the only kid at home by that stage.
That wasn’t how it went.
He was a heroin addict for a start, not an alcoholic. He did weigh a little over six stone which for someone who is six feet tall was shocking. That’s about 40kg. He looked like an Auschwitz survivor. The needle marks on his arms had got infected and he had used the top of his feet as injection sites until they too, got infected.
He was dying in front of us.
I was nearly fifteen. So, it was more than thirty years ago.
My father was not there. He was working interstate and only came home on the weekends, so he didn’t see it.
When he came home, he did not embrace his dying son with open arms. He did not help ‘to turn his life around’ as he fondly recalls now. He had a fit. I will never forget him screaming at my mother that the second his back was turned she had invited that thing into his home. THAT THING. Not my son. Not even our son. He wasn’t even human to him at that stage.
He demanded that mum throw him out. She refused. She said he was ill. My mother rarely stood up to my father.
He insisted that she choose between her husband and her son.
She chose her son.
My father packed his suitcase and he left.
We didn’t see him for almost eight months.
We had to start my brother on vitamin injections. He couldn’t eat solid food because his digestion had virtually stopped. My mother and I got him into a rehabilitation place at Cronulla called odyssey house. It still exists but it isn’t in Cronulla any more. It took three hours to drive there and back. We did it almost every day to see him and to sit in on some of their counselling sessions. I was so young and I saw recovering addicts screaming abuse at each other in their circle ‘discussions’ and interventions.
I didn’t have time to do my homework for school. I sat in the car with my mother because I would not let her go alone. It was a very rough time for us all and my father was not there. To make matters worse, my mother had breast cancer the year before. The mastectomy had taken most of her chest muscle as well and it was actually painful for her to drive a manual car for any length of time. But she did it to visit her son. My father bought the car for her. Enough said.
At the time a friend told me she was very worried about a guy she knew who had smoked a joint. I laughed in her face. It just didn’t seem to compare.
After eight months my father begged to come home and I could not understand why she let him back.
Some people comment when they read my fics, ‘how can parents treat their kids like that?’ And I smile and think how lucky they are to have never seen it themselves. This is barely even the start of what my father has done to his family.
Clearly my father’s Alzheimer’s has let him forget that I don’t like him.