Excerpt of "Sully's Magma: Journal entries"© by Lydia Nolan
My brother died two nights ago. We hadn't spoken in over 10 years as I recall, not because we deliberately did not, but because there was a lot of strange memories I had of him that I am sure he knew of, which made us "estranged" as siblings.
My brother was the youngest of the boys in our family; I, the youngest of the girls. That was the only similarity we had. Joel, was my mother's favorite, I believe.
Or at least I had thought that when we were children. Joel always did one thing similar as I did though: he would lie down next to my mother, and fall asleep when she was sleeping. I did that, too. I did that because my mother was hardly home, and when she was home she wasn't there emotionally or mentally, just physically. So she would take naps as if she did not want to be there. I know why now, but at the time, I did not know why she was never interested in us at all. So I would lie down with her when no one else was home, and just sleep next to her, to share something with her, even though she was not aware of me sleeping behind her.
But when Joel was home, he slept next to Mother, so I had to go outside and sit and wait until she woke up, and usually everyone else was around, and being the youngest, I got the least attention to speak to her. When Joel slept next to her she had her arm around him. I don't remember her arm ever being around me when we were asleep because I would fall asleep much later than she did.
There were six of us siblings. I think it was Joel and I who felt the heaviest about not having our mother to ourselves. But my mother favored him because he looked like her side of the family, and actually he looked exactly like her baby brother, who died in the war. I did not receive as much significance, because I looked like my father, and she and my father were estranged, though they always tried to live somewhat together for the sake of the children--as if it made us feel better to SEE their estrangement.
My brother Joel was painfully shy and self-conscious. He was never very good at spelling or reading, or actually school. I think because having been the youngest of the boys he got beat up more than the other two brothers, who beat up each other, then passed down their aggression on him.
I say this comically, but I do believe my brother was an HSP, like I am. I do not think he was too good about accepting things in life that hurt, and it took him a very long time to get over things, just as it took me a long time to get over things as well. Joel was about six years older than I was. So maybe I'm wrong: maybe we had a lot more in common than I ever realized, or even admitted to myself. Perhaps this is why I feel such a grieving and loss of my brother, Joel. I never let him know how hurt I was that he did not favor me over my sister, Rachel.
We all went to the same school, a high school that had a middle school with it, and which at that time, we called a junior high and senior high school. I was in junior high school while Joel and my sister Rachel were in high school.
There is one memory I always have of my brother, which is a very painful memory. I am sure most people think I am being dramatic, but it's true...I have hardly any happy memories of my brother Joel. He never cared for me at all. Anyway, the one memory I have is being in school and seeing him sitting at a concrete bench alone, near the front of the school in the lunch area, and looking painfully lonely. I felt this great big ache for him inside. I remember going over reluctantly, but trying to appear casual. I paced a little before him because I was also afraid of him. Finally I spoke to him and said something; I cannot remember what it was. But I do remember his response: "get outta here." was all he said. He did not give me eye contact. He was still looking around when he said those words, and I quickly walked away. I will never forget that. For the rest of our lives I felt that was what he thought of me: "Get outta here..." He made fun of me a lot. He told me things that made me feel very ugly and very stupid, and I was afraid to look at him most of my growing up years, so I kept my head down while walking, and I peered incognito as much as my eyes could roll upward without lifting my head. He made fun of that too.
I remember once, he had some friends come over, which he did often after having dropped out of school. My mother was always gone, my father lived in his business in another town. So we spent most of our youth alone and with what seemed like opposing teams within our siblings. The two older siblings had finally left, so there was only the four left: my brothers Mark and Joel, and my sister Rachel and I. Anyway, about Joel's little friends.
Joel's group were always much younger and he was the "leader" of the group. I think it made him courageous to take charge of young kids who were also alone most of their lives, while parents worked or just did not go home. So they would sit out on the curb with him, and he would propound upon ways to get around and make money. I could not be in this group. My sister could, but I could not.
One day, he had planned on bringing over his little friends. We lived across from a large manufacturing building, which was the Pabst Blue Ribbon building, where they made beer. On holidays, they would leave a six-pack of beer on the doorsteps of each resident. So naturally, my parents never saw it because my brother managed to confiscate it before their discovery. This one time, Joel made me drink beer. I was about twelve or thirteen, and had never drank beer before, but I wanted to impress him and feel like he was accepting me by my accepting his influence toward something I knew was wrong. I remember getting drunk and throwing up, and he made fun of me, a completely riotous joke, as always. It were these types of experiences that gave me a sense of shame. I never got over those memories, or the shame to this day. There are more, but I don't want to bring up too many memories I abhor.
Joel went to Viet Nam. He became a sergeant in Viet Nam, which, I suppose, we should be proud of, right? But it was not a good thing having come from a family of non-believers in war, especially because it did not turn out so great for him...
When he came back he was never again "normal" in the best sense of the word that we could call him that--for as far as I was concerned, he was never normal. He never got over having lost a best friend in Viet Nam. He had ordered him to walk ahead of the group of men, as was expected of him to do, and his friend blew up before his eyes, from an explosion of a mine. Joel had grave issues regarding that and other memories of the war. What's worse is he never joined the service, but was drafted just when he had recently married his childhood sweetheart, who proceeded to lose the baby she was carrying and went on to a life of crime, having divorced him while he was in the military. I remember something else suddenly. Joel and I liked the same kind of music. The others did not like rock & roll, as we did, and both of us loved listening to The Doors.
But when it came to seeing me, he had this way of making light of everything about me, my family, people around me who he joked couldn't stand looking at me, just everything that was pinned to me--at least that is the way I felt. I am sure I was not the only one. He did not do this to my sister because my other brother tortured her enough. The two brothers had their favorite sister, and pitted us against each other even though we did not want to be; it was this kind of battleground that has stayed with me all my life, as deeply and profoundly as the battlefield he experienced in Viet Nam. I wish I could forget those years of torture, but they have marked me for a lifetime, crippling my ability to ever believe in myself, even to this day.
As an adult, I never really wanted to know him or be around him for fear of being some kind of joke in the midst of everyone. Apparently, he did this to his own children as well, especially the eldest who was painfully shy as well, and has carried on his legacy of abnormalities.
I do know that he had his demons, I am sure, as we all do, and he lived as long as he could with them, before becoming violently ill with repercussions from the war: agent orange, I believe it was called, and cancer. I wished many times I could have gone to see him, but I was afraid. I was afraid he would say: "Get outta here."
My brother, Joel, died on August 1st, and I will always think of him on that day. I wish we could have been close. I wish so many things now, but it doesn't matter anymore. The monster in my closet of wounds is gone forever, and although monsters are not supposed to be good, I will miss this one, and I will always miss not knowing him.