This is a super-short post to ease back into writing since it’s been….a very long time… We all have our faults. But this happened last week and it made me feel like writing this post so here we go!
There are two girls that I’ve been babysitting for about a year and they’re really cool kids but it’s been several months since I last sat for them. The younger of the two likes to chat with me and tell me what’s happening at school and in her life while the older one generally does her own thing while listening and sometimes joins in. So last night the girls and I were watching TV when the youngun asked me if I have brothers and sisters. And I said “Yes, I have three brothers and a sister”.
My brain did a double take.
While the conversation barreled on without me, my heart was palpitating just a little bit. I answered questions on autopilot while my head was in tailspin.
I have three brothers.
I had three brothers.
I still have three brothers, but one of them passed away in November.
I said nothing to the girls and just let it go. It wasn’t important for them to know and correcting myself would’ve probably put them in an awkward position. Well, maybe not, but even so it wasn’t necessary for me to say anything. It wasn’t the time or place.
My brother Tristan was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer last year in July. He passed away in November after fighting for four months. We didn’t have the smoothest relationship but we loved each other. I will never be able to express how grateful I was, am and will always be to the people, some of who were complete strangers, who donated money to get my sister and I tickets to England to see him.
You gave both Kath and myself the opportunity to make sure that he knew how much we loved him.
The kids asking me about my family just sent my mind reeling. What do I say? It’s a tricky business, when is it appropriate to tell the whole story? And who to? I often feel anger towards some people who use their emotional back stories as some kind of macabre party-trick (and it does happen) because it’s unfair. It’s kind of like serving a plate of bacon to someone you know is vegetarian. Awkward and mean spirited. Since Tristan’s passing in November my family and I have been encountering all sorts of interesting situations. It’s an interesting conundrum that sends your logic out the window as your brain battles with your heart to try and figure out what is the most truthful answer to give that doesn’t mislead someone or cause them to inquire further (because most of the time it’s not something you want to go into right then and there). How much to people really want to know and is it the kind of situation where it is appropriate to tell them?
The short end to this story is that there was no need for me to tell the girls about Tristan’s passing, so I didn’t. I didn’t want them to feel bad and it didn’t feel fair to throw them into the middle of something that I was having trouble explaining to myself.
Tristan is my brother and he’s always here with us. I think about him everyday. Some days I cry a little. Some days I cry a lot. But most days now I think about how he’d think this or that was cool -or awful- and I think about what he’d say about certain things and I imagine the face he’d make if I told him something and I laugh. I feel sad that he didn’t get to finish watching The Hobbit trilogy and that he won’t get to read the next Terry Pratchett book and I wonder if he’d get mad if I gave away the lava-lamp he left with me when he went to the UK (and no I’m not getting rid of the lava-lamp because it’s f**king cool). He’s still on my Facebook, his number is in my phone and I just saw his picture on G-Chat as my mouse scrolled over his name and his face popped up.
It’s hard to think that he’s gone when he’s everywhere at once and it makes me wonder if I will always automatically answer that I have three brothers.