March 6, 2016

My Brother the Butterfly

While updating my blog site I searched stock photos for my header theme.  I was drawn to photos with butterflies as they reminded me of my brother, and so today I'm dedicating this article to my big brother.

I honestly don't know if I would be sitting here today if it wasn't for my brother.  He did everything he could to protect me from our mother and sister.

He was the only one who brought anything resembling normalcy into my childhood, and when I had difficulty learning English or math, he was always there to help me to succeed when I felt I was destined to fail.

The only laughter I knew at home was from all the pranks my brother played on me.  He honestly did all he could to give me love and laughter.  Unfortunately, his love wasn't enough, because a child always earns for the love and approval of their mother and father.

Because our father was rarely around, and when he was, he was either drunk or getting drunk and fighting with out mother, my brother did his best to take over as the man of the house.
I remember he once swatted me on my butt for refusing to pick up my toys.  He was surprised I didn't cry.  When he asked why I wasn't crying, since I cried after mother hit me, I told him I knew he loved me and wanted me to learn, but when mother hit me there was no love.  He hugged me and told me he was sorry, and never swatted my butt again.

My brother was my mother's favorite so he didn't experience any abuse at her hands.  Our father on the other hand seemed to almost hate my brother.  Our father once wired a door knob so that when my brother went to open the door he would be electrocuted.  Thankfully our father didn't do it right and it didn't work.  Our father did beat my brother often, and even tried stabbing him.

I often feel sad when I think about my brother because he had so much potential.  He was incredibly intelligent.  If he had been born into a normal loving and supportive family, who knows what he may have achieved.

My brother loved animals, especially exotic animals.  He always seemed to have at least two or three different snakes.  Maybe that's why I love snakes.  He also had a spider monkey, which one day went crazy and we had to call animal control.  He had various lizards and a few Tarantulas.

His favorite pet was a 3 foot alligator he named Andromeda.  He had Andromeda for about six years when one night a new heat lamp malfunctioned and burned out and Andromeda died.

I'll never forget how my brother's crying woke us all up.  We found him sitting at the kitchen table with Andromeda on the table laying on its back.  My brother had tried to make a mini-defibrillator from the wall outlet and was trying to give Andromeda CPR.  I was heart broken for my brother.  I knew how much he loved his pet alligator.

The other fond memory I have with my brother was playing war.  We would split up his little green plastic army men and we would use straws and lentil beans as gun fire.  Whoever knocked the most soldiers down was the winner.

My brother always took me to museums, the zoo and the park.  He loved to paint and taught me about art.  He loved animals and taught me about animals.  He loved nature and taught me to love hiking.

My fondest childhood memory is when my brother gave me a funny looking net.  When he told me it was a butterfly hunting net I laughed trying to imagine hunting butterflies like hunters looking for lions.

Every summer my brother took me butterfly hunting at the forest preserve.  It's my favorite memory because we would be gone all day away from our mother and sister.  Those days I had no worries or pain.

Butterfly hunting days felt like I was in paradise.  My brother always packed lunch and we would sit outside talking, laughing and sharing dreams.  We never talked about our mother or sister.  It was just me and my awesome brother.

When my brother moved to Seattle with his future bride I felt extremely sad, but I knew he was looking to start a new life.   He told me "this place has too many bad memories."

He would go on to get married and have two amazing twin sons.  Not only did he have two beautiful sons, him and his wife proved that it was possible to raise children who were respectful, well behaved, loving and kind without ever laying a hand on them.

Sadly, he would divorce his wife after 15 years of marriage, even though she didn't want the divorce and had never been unfaithful.  They had grown apart.

I will never forget the horrible day I learned my brother had died in his sleep at the age of 45.  We learned he had developed diabetes and had been misdiagnosed as having the flu.

Even though we hadn't spoken in a long time, I couldn't believe my brother was gone.  He was never supposed to leave me.  There was a part of me that always felt safe knowing he was there for me. When I learned he had died, I felt so alone in the world, even though I too had married.  It felt as though my safety net had been ripped from under me.  Now if I ever fell, there would be no one to catch me.

The summer following my brother's death I was out one day riding my bike and a butterfly landed on my leg while I was riding.  I kept looking at it and it stayed there for about five minutes before it flew away.  I smiled and knew my brother had come to say hello.

My brother passed away 13 years ago, and since then every summer there's always a butterfly that behaves in an unusual manner, either landing on me, following me or fluttering around me for an extended period of time, and I know it's my brother coming to visit to let me know he's still with me.

I pray one day we will meet again, and maybe sail on the winds of time together.

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