My mother recently told me that she didn’t know what was worse: when she didn’t hear from him — or when she did.
My youngest brother tells me he loves him, but he doesn’t want to see him, at least not now.
My dad doesn’t say much about him at all anymore, but still asks if I have any “updates.”
I never do.
As for me, I wish he’d get arrested. Arrested for something big. Something that would put him away for years because at least then I would know where he was. That he was safe. That he had a roof over his head. That he was eating.
That there wasn’t a needle to be found and he was clean.
It’s weird, we all used to have such different hopes about him: I hoped he would finish school and land the perfect job, my parents hoped he would marry a nice girl and have kids, my youngest brother hoped to be just like him.
We all got our wishes for him: he finished school and was working hard, he married his high school sweetheart and they had two beautiful children — and my youngest brother was, as always, following directly in his footsteps.
But we were all wrong.
What we should have hoped for was something else entirely: longevity. We wished for short-term happiness thinking that was enough.
We should have wished for his happy life to continue on course into old age. We should have wished for strength, for patience and for forgiveness. Because now, we’re in short supply of all of those things.
You know that man you see asking for spare change at intersections? The one you avoid eye contact with and pretend not to notice as you roll your car window up?
That man could be my brother. He doesn’t have a home anymore, or a job or pretty wife and kids. He left all that behind — despite all of us begging him not to.
In the short span of two years he went from an upstanding, blue-collar, family man who had never been on the wrong side of the law, to that. A shadow of himself. An echo.
It happened so fast, I don’t even think he knew it was happening to himself — because surely if he did — he would have stopped himself, right? Changed course?
I find myself thinking about my brother a lot lately, which is odd because as kids I never gave him a second thought.
We had the same childhood: same parents, same home, same dog … so how is it our lives are nothing alike anymore? Why did this happen to him and not to me? Chance? Fate?
Now when I see that man at an intersection asking for change I always give him everything I can. Will it go into a needle? Into a bottle? Maybe. Probably.
But maybe, just maybe it’ll buy him a hamburger or a blanket. Maybe it will help him enough to afford a room for the night or put minutes on a cell phone to call home.
Maybe he too has someone out there who is thinking about him, wondering where he is and if he’s OK: a mother who yearns — yet dreads — to hear from him, a younger brother who wanted to be just like him, a father who doesn’t say much.
Or a sister.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper’s opinion.