Four days after I posted A Dream, my brother Shao passed away. He died around 5 am on Saturday morning. I had planned to visit him on that day; he left before I got there.
The day before Shao passed away, our phone rang twice in the morning, a single ring each time; caller ID was “Unknown”. I said to my husband, “This is weird. It never happened like this before.” Later, when I was alone in kitchen preparing meal, I smelled cigarette smoke. “Dad, is that you? Hmm… Shao?” I said loudly. Of course, I didn’t get any answer. At dinner time, for no reason, tears came. A couple of times, I almost couldn’t hold it back.
Saturday morning when I heard the news, right away, I knew that Shao had stopped by to say goodbye the day before. And knowing that, in a way, comforted me.
I have been thinking about Shao’s life since he passed away. What had gone wrong? Four out of five of us are doing okay, what made him ended up having a life so different from the rest of us and so miserable? For years, I had wondered that if I had spent more time being his friend when we grew up, would he still end up like this?
He accidentally answered my question a year ago. He told me I always followed him around when I was little, and how much he hated it back then. He said in an apologizing voice. Hearing that, I felt relieved because it was important for me to know that it was not me abandoned him.
About four or five years ago, one day, with an embarrassing voice he said to me, “Helen, I don’t know what love is.” I was caught by surprise, and desperately wanted to explain “love” to him, but I couldn’t find right words. At last, I said, “Joining the club! You are not the only person who has that problem.” He was disappointed. Then I added, “Remember when I hit our garage door that day you came right away and fixed it for me? Remember when you lived by yourself, several times I went and cleaned your room during my lunch break at work? That caring is part of love, I guess.”
At the end of our conversation he seemed not being convinced by anything I’d said. But was it really true that he didn’t know what love was? I knew for the fact that he loved our family a lot, probably more than any one of the rest of us. When our neighbor remodeled their house to install a modern toilet, Shao remodeled our kitchen, bathroom all by himself (we couldn’t afford hiring anyone). When he saw others had fancy skates, he handmade one for Karin. If that wasn’t coming from love, what could it come from?
Deep down, I suspect Shao’s biggest problem was that his love was too huge and too pure that made it hard for receivers to appreciate or accept. Soon after he bought his first house, he pointed at a house on the same street and said to me, “I am going to buy that one for Mom and Dad, and then this for Chris, this for Karin… our family will be together one day.” I thought he was crazy. “But, each of us has his/her own house, and we live in different cities,” I said to him.
I remember asking Shao, “So, every time I told you I loved you, it meant nothing to you? What about all the things I have done for you?” Shao didn’t respond.
Thinking back, true, I had been telling him I loved him since 6 or 7 years ago (saying “I love you” was not part of our culture then), but, even I know that, every time there was this invisible “BUT” hanging at the end. “I love you, but I wish you can stop drinking.” “I love you but you have to listen to me.” Maybe it was that invisible “BUT” blinded him for the love I was trying to convey?
I am not blaming myself here. Even though I wanted to figure out what had happened to Shao, I know it’s very little to do with regret. I believe we all have a container in our heart for things we don’t like but we have to live with… like work stresses, misunderstanding between friends, drunken brother saying meaningless things that he wouldn’t remember on the next day… etc. and when that container is full, we become angry and we couldn’t take any more. I had done my best with the container I had, I believe.
(What I didn’t know and have learned recently is that there is a way to make the container bigger. 😉
I apologize for this long story… I guess what I am trying to say is that we, human beings, are more complicated than I have imagined.
What I am really trying to say is: I miss Shao.
Thanks for visiting my blog.