In Michaels Eyes
Michael’s eyes are filled with the past. Beneath the twinkling flashes of puckish playfulness lay shadows that hide within them the secrets and memories we both fight to suppress.
I saw my brother recently and I looked into those beautiful dark eyes of his, hoping to see some resolution in his life, some happiness, but it broke my heart to see just how distressed and disconsolate he was. In truth, I was living in the same type of bubble as Michael, filled with perplexity and confusion only I had become more adept at juggling the secrets and lies than he. I think it’s because my mother focused her attentions on making me the one who held safe the secrets rather than my brother.
I want so desperately to take away all of the demons that threatened his peace, and take care of him as he had me, but I can only take steps with him. He must be willing to help himself. His first step has to be to free him from our mothers’ control.
He craves her acceptance and approval so intently that it would take some doing for him to make his own mental health a priority. It breaks my heart to see him suffer as he does, just waiting for a tiny morsel of her love. He is only a pawn in a battle with demons he has no power over, and no help in maneuvering them.
It hurts to see him shoulder a life he was ill-prepared for. He has had a lifetime of dependency issues, but they probably would not have been had he been loved. He filled in the empty crevices of his heart with substances that didn’t judge him, and didn’t hurt him. They gave him all the love and acceptance he couldn’t get from his parents.
It’s wonderful to share a bond with a sibling, but the bond we share is one that children should never know. The bond linking us was not only genetic, but one of survival. He and I were the castoffs, the invisible children and I am so thankful that he felt compelled, as my older brother, to protect me through our chaotic life. I know all too well what lurks behind his closed eyelids as he tries to find a quiet place within his thoughts.
I knew how tormented he was and it broke my heart to see how sad he was still. I wanted to take away all of the ghosts and demons from his past and take care of him as he had me.
My brother was my only shield in the house of horrors we lived in. Although he did his best to keep me safe, his rail thin body was no match for our sadistic, alcoholic father. He was just a little boy 3 years older than my 8 years, yet, he promised to always protect me.
When I saw him, he hugged me so forcefully I thought I’d break and then he whispered softly to me, “Terri, only you and I know what we survived. Only you know my demons”.
The sadness in his eye’s pled for love, and acknowledgement. His eyes dart not because he is curious about his surroundings, they dart because he is unsure of those around him. He is far too cautious and untrusting. Maybe his darting eyes are born of abuse and emotional neglect. An abused child rarely holds a stare for very long for fear of reprisal. That child learns to distrust those around him very quickly. We associate people with pain.
I have a picture of Michael when he was just 11 years old. His narrow face was devoid of anything remotely child-like. His dark eyes overflowed with having seen too much life, his pale skin had taken on a sallow almost corpse-like look. At 11 years old he’d been carrying the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders for far too many years.
Michael was not allowed to show any inkling of emotion in our house. No tears were ever allowed, even if he was bleeding he had to suck it up and keep going.
It’s not that our father was from the “SUCK IT UP AND BE A MAN” school of child rearing, it was more that he was sadistic in wanting to see us be in pain. Our father clearly enjoyed the fear he could summon in Michael just be entering a room. He would often make Michael stand in front of him and watch his heart pound through the fabric of his shirt. When my father was finished with him he would sometimes kick him to the floor and laugh as he stepped over his body.
I recall my mother asking my father why it was so important for him to be feared by his children instead of being loved, and he laughed out loud in a most sinister way, He didn’t really care what kind of emotions his behavior elicited, he just wanted to be in control.
To this day I think about Michael and I cry. He has lived such a sad and lonely existence. No one did a thing to help him, not one person came to his aid, nor did they come to mine.
Through the terrible abuse he experienced at the hands of his father my brother’s compassion for our father never faltered. When our father was killed some years ago he cried, it was much more emotion than our father deserved.