Jan. 2nd, the day after Chinese New Year, is my brother S’s birthday. I called him this morning, wishing him a happy birthday.
The night before last night, (after reading Tree’s article “Some People Can’t Be Fixed“) I dram of seeing two devils pointed their guns at S. He sat there, apparently drunk, wasn’t aware of their presence. I slowly walked toward them. As soon as the devils noticed me, they turned and pointed their guns at me. This could be the end of my life, I thought. But I wasn’t afraid. In fact, I was very calm and, to my surprise, I felt peaceful. Looking right into their eyes, I said, “My brother is a nice person. Please don’t take his life.”
My dream ended there; I didn’t know if they shot me or not. It doesn’t matter. I said what I wanted to say.
S has a big, soft heart. My mom said once that if S owed nothing except the clothes he was wearing, if he saw someone in need, he would not hesitate taking his clothes off and give them to that person. That is very true. In the past several years, occasionally, S would mention to me that so–and-so was poor, and ask if I could help. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I bet so–and-so had more money than he did. Although I didn’t know how much money so–and-so had, I knew S had almost none.
Every time S heard someone was ill, he would call me asking if I could send some medicine to the sick person. “If I have any healing power, you would be the first one I want to help, don’t you know?” I said to him many times.
S and I didn’t have a wonderful relationship when we grew up. When I was 5, my dad took a job out of town. Dad came home once a month (the most). Mom was busy taking care of 4 kids by herself with limited money (I believe my elder brother, the oldest kid, was away from home attending college). Needless to say, we received little parental guidance, if there was any. Each of us struggled to survive in his/her own way. The middle two kids, S and I, struggled more than the others since the first two kids and the last kid was special for parents. Since S was a boy with a lot of pride, he suffered the most.
When S was 13 years old, one day, my mom asked him to take me to a movie. “Mom, she is a girl,” he protested. I didn’t want to go with him either, but my mom insisted. I hopped on S’s bicycle; his anger was obvious. I started feeling sorry for him, desperately wanted to cheer him up. I worked hard to find something say, hoping I could make him feel better. I was relieved when S finally calmed down. However, when we arrived home later, S told my mom, “Don’t ask me to take her out again! She talked so much. I couldn’t stand it!” His words hurt so much that I stopped talking to him, which, of course, didn’t bother him a bit.
By the time I went to college, S had started his two years army training. Army life was pretty tough, he started smoking and drinking. One day after school, I unexpectedly found S waiting in front of my apartment. He had a big smile on his face. “I have a day off, so I decided to come to see you,” he said.
I was happy to see him at first, but it didn’t take me long to realize that we had very little in common to talk about. We didn’t say much to each other throughout the dinner and it was obvious that we tried very hard to connect. Before he left, he emptied his pocket and put all his money in my hands. “I want you to have this,” he said. Knowing how little he made each month, I didn’t want to accept his money. “You are my little sister crying out loud,” he said and then quickly walked away. He turned around after taking two steps. “Would you please give me 2 dollars? I have to buy a bus ticket.”
Right after I graduated from college, I came to the United States and later found a job in Minneapolis. S got married. Many years later, S and his family immigrated to U.S.
Six months after S came, I got married and invited S to live with us (his family joined him later). Living with a new husband and a brother, who I didn’t know a lot, turned out to be very stressful. Every Friday, I emptied my pockets and gave all my changes to S so he would have little money to spend. But other than that little money, I didn’t have much to offer – not a lot of time, not a lot of energy and running out of patience. I knew S was lonely but I couldn’t do more for him. S eventually landed a carpenter job and moved to an apartment twenty minutes from where I lived.
Being a carpenter was not easy. Trying to fit in as a minority, S smoked more and drank more. Several times I watched him get drunk, lie on the sofa and cry like a baby. There were so many things that he wanted to tell me, but he didn’t know how to say it.
S has been bedridden for more than 10 years. Even though he has never managed to tell me what he wanted in his life, I am pretty certain that I know. For him, nothing is more important than his family. All he wanted is a family that we all get along and love each other. Had he stopped drinking (heavily) twenty year ago, he may find out now that he, actually, had had what he always wanted.
It’s sad to know that he worked so hard and, still, he didn’t get what he wanted (not in his mind). It’s frustrated to know that even if you are willing to give up everything to save someone, you may still not be able to.
But I am not telling you this story to make you sad. As bad as it is, my brother has taught me a lot of things: I’ve become more understanding, having more compassion, and being less judgmental. For that, I thank him.
On my brother’s birthday, I would like to tell the world how important having a good social/communication skill is. (I know I didn’t explain this well, but it is getting too long ;-( If S had a good social skill, he wouldn’t have to keep his thoughts/troubles inside, and maybe he would be a different person now. I know this because, in my heart, I know well that I could be ended up like him. And, maybe, it was because of that that I was brave in my dream.
Happy Birthday, S.
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