Significant Influence

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If an outsider were told to pick someone who has had a significant influence on my life, the might choose my dear friend Erika who committed suicide in 2004, or my dad who is the figurative rock in my life, or even my two cousins, Gabby and Stacey, who have always been for me to run to when life gets terribly hard. No one would choose my older brother, Jeremy or ‘Jerebear’ as I affectionately call him. No, my brother’s influence would be pushed behind most everyone else’s in my life; way to the back, next to every other seemingly insignificant person in my life. When unable to find a good example within the family, it can also be very beneficial to use the bad ones as what to avoid, as my brothers whole life highlights. Besides this lesson, I have also learned that there is more to people than can be quickly perceived by their actions.

We grew up in a broken home, so the two of us were always sure to be together even if we didn’t know what bed we’d sleep in. For me, it was always a comfort to have my big brother at my side whenever I needed him to be my guardian and protector. My mom left the family to pursue material things, and my dad was worn down from the pressures of having to raise a family by himself. He did the best he could, which at times was less than adequate. As the only female in the household, I grew up faster than I should have and became the makeshift “mom” and “wife”. Although draining, these roles have taught me more about myself, namely that I can be resilient in quickly adapting to unexpected changes in life. Jeremy on the other hand, didn’t have the advantage of such a distraction so he felt the full impact of the divorce from early on. This was clearly reflected in his behavior at school. His grades plummeted and he acted out by harming other children either verbally or often physically. Without the emotion skills necessary to handle the shattering of our lives, he fought through life in every sense of the word.

As he grew, so did his court record. Minor transgresses of morality such cheating on a test turned into stealing bikes. He held up a drug dealer with a fake gun. He stole my dad’s car and drove off a bridge. He got in one fight after another, sometimes winning and sometimes coming away with bruises and gashes that I swore I felt as much as he did. It was as if he had changed overnight; but in actuality I only saw the major changes while ignoring all the steps leading up to them. I refused to recognize the new him. No matter what happened I always stood by him, naively believing that it would simply pass when the pain of the divorce passed.

Although not picturesque, I consider the moral standards in our home at that time to be higher than usual. When he started using drugs it shocked me into disbelief. Thus to persuade him to quit I told him that if smoked one more time then I would cut off our relationship. As was expected he did it again, and I stayed true to my word. For over a month I refused to speak to him except when completely necessary and even then he must have heard the contempt in my voice. One night he came home and went into his closet and sobbed quietly. When my father went looking for him and found him there, he came to me demanding that I make amends. I walked in and saw my frail brother crouched in the corner of his closet crying. For that night the Jerebear I remember came back. I went to him immediately forgetting all the wrong he had done and seeing only my own imperfections. He told me he drank when he was lonely and didn’t fit in, smoked when he wanted to get away forgetting who he was and what he’d become and every time he assaulted someone it was to release some of his own internal anguish. Referring to the messy breakup, he explained to me that when I chose religion as my outlet he chose drugs. I understood then how confused I was about sympathy. Although he never directly accused me of causing the hurt we both understood his sorrow and my unspoken apology. This snippet of reflection has replayed many times since then with minor variations specific to that time period. Sadly what has also repeated is the fact that all of this makes no headway in getting my brother back.

In times passed, I had a more tapered view of the mankind. Seeing a homeless person I would automatically assume that he had no family that loved him and was hurt because of his bad decisions. Seeing groups of boys with their pants almost off their waists I would chalk them up as nobodies who had no real gift to give to society. The list of my changed rationale is extensive. I now know I was mistaken and I can thank Jeremy for this imparted insight.

More often then not, I am unable to recognize he brother that I love so unequivocally. Even when I’m with him I find myself grieving for him because I can feel a profound fissure. I miss the old person I knew, the real him; the one that so many members of my family have either forgotten or given up on seeing again. Once in a while my Jerebear will break through the veiled pain to become the little boy I once knew so well. Until that day comes when he is healthy for good, I will have to hold onto the memories as a detective would hold onto a sketch of a suspect so that, when identified that person can be caught and held onto tightly.

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