I haven’t seen my brother for 25 years. We were both in our 20s then; young enough to believe that aging was something that happened to other people. Our faces were unlined and our family wounds still fresh enough to be leading us around without our knowledge. Our family wounds went deep. Our parents’ divorce happened when stigma existed behind the word. Their subsequent pain, the ways they dealt with it, and each other became the uneven foundation of our adolescence. Everyone deals with their pain differently, but in the end, we all ran away as soon as we could. Our family was not a shelter.
I knew I had abandoned my brother years ago. I didn’t have the courage to go back home. Instead I set out on a lifelong journey to learn how to make a home. My brother’s destiny lead him to run away also. For more than a dozen years no one knew how to find him. What became of my brother was the mystery we would briefly wonder about in our infrequent visits.
Seeing someone you know after decades is kind of like looking at yourself in the mirror. In your mind you don’t look like who is peering back at you. My self image is still young and vital. The circles around my eyes and the sagging skin at my jaw line are not yet part of my self image. Meeting my brother again after all these years felt like that, too. I saw my father, my younger father that I remembered from before the divorce in his face and his mannerisms. The way he held out his hands when he spoke. Then when I just was able to listen, I saw my younger brother as I remembered him in his eyes. It was like time travel.
Life has taught him a deep spirituality through great loss. His calm wisdom, acceptance of life and self was both inspiring and surreal. His philosophy and belief system was perfectly articulated while the answers to questions about the past were vague. The peaceful calm became a choppy sea under the force of scrutiny and lacking trust. Family reunions clarify our weak spots like little else. They always serve to provide the deepest and most searing insights into my most challenging personality traits.
Bringing our past into our present, being with people you haven’t seen in decades reminds you of the maxim: the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is something unchanging and unchangeable in our deepest nature that my long lost younger brother reminds me. At times, I felt like I was in a movie script. Words are often not enough to bridge the gap and the silence that lays between them is unfamiliar. I was surprised at how easy it was to close down and let my tendency to self-protect lead. It took me several days to realize that the gap of estrangement is only crossed by a will to do it. You have to want to love. You have to choose to let go. It is not the natural outcome.
It was hard to believe some of what my brother said. It was easy to let my disbelief turn into suspicion. Curiosity and wonder only thrive without judgment. My brother has become a spiritual mystic of sorts and is also still carrying around a lot of unexamined history. He has made peace with some of it though, and reminded me that our shared history was the seeds that brought us to where we are.
Deciding to love him again allowed me to listen more, interrupt less, and ultimately know that I cannot tell him anything. It was the hardest test of loving that I have faced in a long time. I am so grateful to know that I have the courage to still open my heart. Therein lies a completely different view of where you have come from and the only way to a fresh start.