The Moment I Knew my Relationship With my Brother was Over.
My brother has spent his adult life measuring his success, or — more to the point — his lack of success, by what others took from him. Or at least what he perceived they took from him. We shared mixed roles with each other in childhood; sometimes allies, but more often enemies. When I say enemies, what I mean is that my brother sewed my father’s anger into the fabric of his persona at a very young age. I saw it as he became a teenager and started drinking, experimenting with drugs, and failing in school.
I was a decent student as a kid and my brother resented my good grades. He could not put together on any fundamental level that my study habits alone set me apart. He skipped school and spent his teenage years getting high, so in spite of the fact that he was smarter than I was, his GPA was around 2.0. I did nothing special, simply put in the work. Even then in high school and despite his growing anger toward me, I did not see my brother as a lost cause, but as someone with whom I shared a connection. I still believed that my brother was a person whom I could reach.
Financial hardship because of my father’s extended periods of unemployment meant that our family moved up to Lake Lanier in the early spring of 1978. We could no longer afford two homes, so our lake home became our permanent home. My brother took over my parent’s apartment until the end of their lease would be up. When my parents moved, they left me living in their old apartment with my then eighteen-year-old brother, Russ, to finish out the school year.
I finished out my sophomore year at Clarkston High School unsupervised and unprotected.
As a parent now, I see what a poor decision that was. My parents placed me in an untenable situation as a naïve young girl of only about 15 or 16; I found myself ill-equipped to manage the situation. My brother, with no real ability to be any kind of parental figure, and well on his way to following in my father’s alcoholic footsteps, poorly fit the role of responsible caretaker. By this time, the primary focus my brother had was in the amount of freedom he felt as “man of the house;” the apartment was often filled with strange men whom I did not know. My brother drank heavily, often…