A childhood friend of mine and my brother, Darrell, was here in Amsterdam last week with his fiancé, Natasha. They were here celebrating Natasha’s birthday and enjoying a mini European vacation. As always, it was wonderful to have visitors. We shared a few drinks, caught up and reminisced about some funny childhood memories.
The entire time I couldn’t help but look at Darrell and imagine what could have been… I looked at him, just a few months younger than my brother, in love, engaged and having recently purchased his first home. He looked so happy and I was so happy for him. I looked at him and saw Kylen. I tried to imagine him happy, with a job, living on his own, about to be married but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t imagine my brother happy.
I still struggle to understand the reality of my brother’s illness. I can’t understand how at such a young age Kylen’s life was overcome with all-consuming depression and anxiety. He went from excelling in school and sports to barely graduating high school in one semester. As I witnessed my brother’s sudden fall from grace I was angry and confused and often embarrassed by his inexplicable behavior. As the years went on I, although 4 years younger than Kylen, took on the role of the older sibling. Unlike my friends and classmates I didn’t ask my brother for help on homework, rides home from parties or advice. We lived in separate worlds. I went off to college and graduate school and Kylen’s life continued on its downward spiral. He couldn’t keep a job, fell behind many of his childhood friends and never gained any real independence (emotional or financial) from my parents.
I looked at Darrell and I was jealous. I was jealous of his little sister.
I longed for so many years to have a relationship with my brother. I imagined that one day Kylen would snap out of whatever it was he was going through and we would finally have the relationship I had always dreamt of. I’d finally have my brother back.
I don’t remember a time when Kylen and I were close but my mom tells me that as little kids we were inseparable. He would make me laugh and play with me and watch over me with the protective eye that only a big brother has.
I so badly wish I could remember this.
Although it has been over a year since Kylen died it still isn’t real to me. I don’t know how to mourn the loss of someone I called my older brother but never really felt like one. I loved Kylen with all my heart and miss him everyday but that doesn’t help to erase the confusion and guilt that still surrounds my relationship with him. I wish that I had been a better and more patient sister and friend for my brother and I would give anything for just one more chance to try.
Being 6,000 miles away from my family has allowed me time to avoid dealing with my grief the way that I probably should. There are always those times though, a visit from an old friend or a familiar movie on television, that creates a crack in my alternate world and allows those hidden emotions to seep through, just for a little while, until I’m able to seal them back below.