Earlier this week, it was my brother's birthday. He's ten years older than I am, and with both our parents and our other brother gone, he's the last one left in my immediate family.
Yet I can't remember the last time we spoke. He'd been the custodial child of our difficult mother and more attentive to our older brother during his last days as well; they were separated by just 13 months of age. As children they'd often been dressed as twins. I'd come along much later.
When I was a kid, my brother was a hero to me. The good-natured, clowning middle kid, he'd made the best of it when my parents announced they'd be going out for the night and he'd be stuck babysitting, his own plans be damned. Cuddled next to him, I'd watch westerns on our small black-and-white TV.
When he left for college, he gave me a stuffed dog with a teardrop in its eye and a heart on its chest that read "Nobody Loves Me." It was how I felt after he left, and I slept with that stuffed animal every night until our mother stole it and threw it out.
That was a long time ago. And for many years, he and I remained on good terms, especially when he married a woman I adored for her warmth and sense of humor.
And then he hurt me emotionally. The first time was when I called him after I'd been violated in graduate school. I woke him up and announced the fact. The first words out of his mouth were, "Was it fun?"
The last time was when I was facing a serious medical issue that had the potential to keep me out of work for a few months. I asked if he'd be willing to loan me money to tide me over if I pursued a particular course of treatment. He countered by insulting my husband's ability to provide for me.
Of course, he has his own grudges against me. But since I'm the one writing this and not him, I'll skip the mea culpas.
Over time our phone calls and visits became fewer and further apart. His lovely daughter, my niece, is our only connection now — and she knows better than to referee. I understand he asks her about me, and I wonder about him, too.
Even though he and I are not young anymore and there's more life behind us than ahead, the rift remains. Neither one of us dials the phone. I don't need him emotionally — I have a loving husband and friends for that. And he has a wife, children, grandchildren, and friends who think he's the greatest guy.
I'm sure they never forget my brother's birthday. Neither do I. This week, as every June, I wish him well.