Seeking My Brother

I have vividly real dreams. I remember bits and pieces of dreams from years ago. I most definitely remember the dreams if I’ve talked about them or written them down.

A year or or so after dad died and David was sent away, mom and I were up at the cabin. A family friend was staying at our house. One night at the cabin, I woke up, went into the next room, woke mom, told her she needed to try and call home. I’d dreamed that part of the house was on fire, and she needed to call to wake up our family friend so she could get out of the house. My mom tried to calm me and tell me it was a dream, but the feeling was so real, the image so vivid, that I went downstairs to the phone. Mom did call. There was no fire. While I cannot remember every moment of the dream, I can still see the part of the house that was burning, and still feel the fear that woke me.

When I was in my twenties, I was taking a medication that commonly gave people weird dreams or nightmares. I already had weird, vivid dreams, and the medication amplified my dreams. One night I dreamed that I had been invited to some sort of gathering of nefarious rich people. Someone had invented some sort of tube that would allow God to manifest himself on Earth. When the demonstration started, the roof of the glass tube, which was thirty or forty feet high, opened to the sky. Mist whirled and filled the tube, and the mist began to glow. Nothing else happened, so there was discussion about it being trickery – mist created by the clashing of hot and cold air, the light being reflected from some place or other. A few believed it was God. I did not get to stay to see how it played out, as I was asked to help with the Collection. This was not a monetary collection. I was lead to a limo, and on the way to the city, we stopped to pick up The Collector. We drove into the city. Apparently there had been some sort of violent clash and there were casualties. As the limo drove through the street, we stopped each time we saw a corpse on the side of the street (it’s wasn’t as gruesome as it sounds, honest). The limo would pull over. The Collector and I got out of the limo, opened the trunk, and pulled out a bodybag to collect the corpse, which we then placed in the back of a big white delivery truck that was following us. The bodybags were in a dispenser box, like you’d pull storage bags out of. In big black letters, the box was labelled “Bodybags”. Off to the right, was a big red sticker with the words “Party-sized pack”.

There was the Sonny and Cher dream. In the dream S & C were in their post-tv show, post Vegas phase. They were taking whatever bookings they could get. I was their new manager. And background singer. There was no other band, just a few speakers where the pre-recorded music played. A rich couple had offered $500,000 for them to give a private performance. To make a long dream short: when the wall in the basement room where we were supposed to perform opened to reveal another room with wall-to-wall mattress, and the naked rich couple inviting S & C to come “perform”, well, it got unpleasant. Shouting, throwing things, and, when the rich man went to get his gun, well, me and S & C ran out the back, leaving everything behind. We ran, and ran, through lawns and woods, finally cresting a hill that lead down to a beach where we saw Meryl Streep and Bette Midler burying a body. Nice people that we were, S & C and I helped with the grave-digging. After, we walked down the beach, a beautiful sunset adding to the peacefulness of the waves splashing, and we all ended up at a beachfront restaurant where we all sat on the outdoor patio and shared several pitchers of margaritas.

I had a recurring nightmare when I was a teenager. Most of the dream would be new, but then, there was a sound of an Army jeep off in the distance. Suddenly, whatever was happening in the dream shifted, and I was standing on the front step of home. I heard another noise, a small hiss, and felt something cold in my hand. I’d look at my hand and coiled in the palm was a little baby rattlesnake, just in time to see it bite me. As I flung the snake out of my hand, an Army jeep pulled up in front of the house. Sitting in the back of the jeep was The Nazi Officer. He was reaching for his gun, and I ran, leaping over the chainlink fence that was around the yard, and barely evaded the grip of one of the other Nazis that was getting out of the jeep. As I was running down the street there were two sounds: the Six Million Dollar Man bionic leg running noise, and then a gunshot. I always woke at the gunshot. I never knew if it hit me. (On a side note: my palm, where the snake bit me, always hurt when I woke up.)

Describing the dreams makes them seem a bit darker than they were.

Well, ok, the whole rattlesnake/Nazi Officer thing can only be described as dark.

Most of my dreams are quite entertaining and colorful. My dreams were 4K-def long befire actual 4k was invented. I dream in the sharpest and most beautiful colors.

I also have lots of dream friends.

I run into Barbra Streisand often. I’ve had dinner at her home many times. Good food and good conversation. She’s even sung a few tunes at the piano.

I’m good friends with Hillary Rodham Clinton. We meet for lunch often and discuss politics.

And, anytime I’m at the dream mall, I run into Darth Vader. I don’t go to the mall often (read: never) in real life, but, dream me has a mall trip every few months, and there’s good ol’ Darth. Sometimes I think he’s stalking me, because he jumps down from an upper level to land right in front of me. It’s not a casual “Oh, hey! Fancy running into you here” moment. We walk to the food court, have coffee, and talk. Despite the whole Dark Side thing, he’s a good conversationalist, and, surprisingly, has a delightful sense of humor though he gets irritated when I use the f-word.

My dreams can be vivid, intense. I often wake feeling whatever feeling I had in the dream. Even though I remember quite a few of them in detail, most stick around the edges of my mind for awhile and then drift away. Others leave a few images here and there as hints.

My memories are like that. I remember a good many things in detail. Other memories are fragmented. Some are just a faint glimpse of a long ago time.

My dad has been dead since 1980. I was 14 when he died. I didn’t know him well – how well can you know anyone when you’re 14? My memories of him seem dimmer everyday. I can’t remember his voice. I know he sang beautifully (he’d been in a barbershop quartet for many years before I was born), but I am unable to hear his singing. He loved to laugh, and his laugh is just an outline to me. I can hear the cadence and the rhythm, but not the actual sound of the laughter.

My brother, David, was sent away a few months after my dad died. Like me, David was adopted. His story is complicated. Parts of it I don’t understand. He was my dad’s niece’s son. My parents adopted him at birth (same as me). He was a handful. He lied, he was arrested for shoplifting, he punched his pregnant teacher in the stomach – all before age 9.

David was born when I was 5. He was unadopted by my mom after my dad died and sent to live with his birth-mother when I was 14. David was 9.

Between the ages of 5 and 14, I had a brother.

I saw him one time a year or so after he had gone from here. He came to live with my mom for a few months while he finished high school and before he joined the Navy. I was in my early 20s by then and involved in my own life. He was involved in school and the drama program and choir, so he didn’t have much free time. I didn’t spend much time with him then.

He left here, joined the Navy, was dishonorably discharged, and popped in and out of my life for a time, when he’d call and ask for money. But I never saw him again.

After a fight with him was I was in my mid-20s, I never heard from him again. I never saw him again either. I won’t ever see him again. He died in 2009. He was 38.

Like the memories of my dad, my memories of David are dim. Some of the memories are, I think, just family stories that have been told so many times that they become the official memory.

With fragments of memories and with a nod to my active and vivid dream life, I believe this is true:

It was a bright day. Autumn. I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor of David’s bedroom. His clothes are gone. Some of his toys are gone. The furniture is there. The bed. The bookshelf. The chair. Those didn’t make the trip with him.

He’s gone. I have a general sense of why he’s gone: mom said he was too much for her to handle, she was, after all, a 55 year old widow. The words made sense to my 14 year old self, and yet they didn’t. Other options had been talked about, like sending him to a military school. I don’t know why that suddenly wasn’t an option. Dad was dead, and now it was about nine months later and David was gone. Mom said David needed to be with a real family who could help him. But weren’t we a real family? Dad was gone. Why weren’t the three of us ‘real’? Why did it have to go from three of us to two? Why weren’t we a real family anymore? I sat on the floor of David’s half-empty room. I felt emptier than the room. I felt that I was somehow to blame. That I hadn’t been a good enough brother. That I hadn’t protected him enough from my mom’s moods and rage. I uncrossed my legs, sprawled on the floor, and cried.

David’s story isn’t one that can be told in a few paragraphs or pages. It’s a long story. It’s a story that I can’t tell. Yet. I want to tell his story. I feel as if I owe it to him. I can’t tell it because there are parts I don’t know. There are parts I won’t ever know.

There are answers to be found. I’m taking a trip to Sioux City, to see his mother and half-siblings who are all gathering together for Easter. I’m taking another trip which will include a stop to visit David’s widow. I want to know what they know, good and bad – I know there’s a lot of not-so-good yet I need to know.

Since mom died in February 2017, it’s David who’s been haunting me. Not in a ghostly sense. He’s been haunting my memory. He’s been drifting around the edges of my mind, reminding me of how little I remember him and how little I actually knew him. He’s not haunted my dreams though he reminds me of my dreams, how I remember some parts very vividly, other parts hardly at all. He makes me question which of my memories are real and which are just the result of repeated story-telling by my mom. Mom talked about David often. She’d tell the story of how burdensome he was, how he was too uncontrollable. She’d tell anyone who would listen yet she’d never answer any of my questions about the stories. I know all of her David stories by heart. I know many of those stories have become my memories.

I need to find my own memories of him.

Talking with his birth-family will give me information about the years after he was sent back, though it will mostly be their memories of him, their memories of things my mom said. Those stories will help me think of David as more of a real person, an adult (when I think of him, the image that comes to mind is usually of him as a small child). Maybe those stories will offer some help in working backwards to find some of my truths.

Julian and I live in my mom’s house. Yes, she’s been dead over a year. Yes, the house is legally in our name now. I feel like it will always be her house. I walk around the house, trying to find my memories and truths. I don’t find them. I find dashed hopes, reminders of what never was, dreams of what could have been, and memories more bad than good. The house is not a memory trigger in a good sense.

 

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David has been dead nine years. He lived here nine years. In between the nines, nearly 30 years passed. That’s not relevant other than knowing that he’s been dead longer than he lived with us.

There are memories of David I need to find. Ghosts of my family that I need to exorcise. I thought at first that I needed to deal with my memories of my mom. About a month or two passed after her death, David began his haunting. I realize that so much of who I am is because of David being unadopted and sent away. I am also adopted and not a day passed after David went that I didn’t worry that I was going to be sent away too. Not a day went by that I didn’t wonder why David needed a real family and, somehow, that meant mom and I weren’t a real family. Trust and committment issues? Who? Me? Hm.

People have often thought me strange. I would like to reassure them that yes, indeed, I am rather strange. I say this because of what’s happening next.

Some people don’t wish to dig deep into their memories. Nothing wrong with that.

Some will only look until they find something unpleasant. Nothing wrong with that either.

Me, I can’t stop digging. I need to know and understand things, people, events. Not being able to find David in this house means I need to take a journey to try and find him elsewhere.

I’m journeying away from home. I’ve been inside these walls most of the last decade, caring for mom. In all that time, my focus was on her. After she died, I realized that the memories of my dad and David were even duller than I thought. Having been in this house so long – nearly 24/7 for the last year or so of mom’s life has left me hating this house more than I have in the past. The walls have closed in. I can’t see clearly into the past. I can barely find memories of anyone other than my mom.

The idea of a journey just popped into my head. It’s one of those strange things that happen to me (no, not that I’m psychic or a medium, etc.). Ideas don’t germinate with me on a concious level. They just pop fully formed into my brain once they have more shape. There were two parts to the idea. First: I needed to get away from the house, to have space and time to think, to search my mind without seeing all the bad memories lurking in every corner of this house. Second: I knew that I needed to be somewhere I’d not been before, or, at least, not go places that have family associations. If I’m trying to escape the bad memories of the house, I didn’t think I’d find a lot of good memories in places where we went as a family.

I needed to go to the desert southwest. That’s just what popped into my strange brain. Now, here’s where it gets stranger and crazier to explain without sounding like some sort of mystic guru. If you live, or have been to the southwest, you might understand this. I’ve only been to New Mexico three times – once as a teen, once in my 20s, and once in 2012 – but there wasn’t much sightseeing. My idea of the southwest comes from books and tv and movies. The southwest seems to be the land of the spirits, both good and bad. The land of the Great Spirit. The Windwalkers. Coyote.

Where else to find the good and bad spirit of my brother, of myself than among the lands  of myth and legend?

With the blessing and support of my wonderful husband, I’m taking a road journey. Just me, some clothes, a camera and things to write with. The journey begins by going west, to Glenwood Springs (CO), then into Green River (UT) and St. George (UT). A few days in Vegas–the idea of sitting somewhere public, watching people go by, fills me with joy. Being out in the world, among people, but still alone in the throng of humanity sounds appealing. I’ve been locked in the four walls of this house for so long that my connection to the larger world is tenuous at best.

The journey continues into Arizona: Flagstaff, Scottsdale, Tucson. Then Texas: Odessa, San Angelo, and the bustling city of Dallas. Onward to Oklahoma City, then into the plains: Wichita (KS) to visit David’s widow, and then a jaunt along the roads of Kansas to head back home. Yes, yes. Not all desert southwest. I’m not a sleep alone in the desert under the stars kind of guy. I have no desire to sleep in a tent on ground where snakes and scorpions and tarantulas crawl.Still, there’s lots of open desert between many of the stopping points and the sense of spirit will fill the air.

During the days, I plan to sightsee – things that are interesting to me.

I want to sit by the river in Green River and watch geyser erupt and the sun set.

I want to look out over the valley in St. George. I’m not religious, but I find chruches and temples photographically interesting, so there’s the big Mormon Temple in St. George.

Get lost in the Vegas crowds. There’s a cactus botanic garden in Henderson, NV. In Vegas there’s a museum about the atomic bomb testing in NV (my dad was on a ship in Bikini Atoll when they were testing the first atomic bombs).

Take in Old Town Flagstaff and Old Town Scottsdale. Walk along the river in San Angelo, TX.

Let’s not forget the Dallas Arboretum: a 66-acre botanic gardens on the shore of White Rock Lake. Pay my respects at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial.

Writers journey – within and without. Think Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. (Though I will have no camper or dog.)

I’ll be trying to get into the practice of writing (this story of David, for what I hope will be a book), and my journey. Getting back to my blog is part of this. Hopefully there will be updates and a photo or two from the road.

And, as wandering writers are apt to do: I won’t say no to ApplePay donations to help with the costs.

And, in lieu of cash, well wishes for safe travel are just as meaningful.

10 thoughts on “Seeking My Brother

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    1. Thank you. I may not have written anything this past year, but I’ve kept up with your poems. They always inspire me. And, I like your quote. Quite true.

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  1. john – good to hear from you again. you certainly do have a detailed and vivid memory, both for an awakened, as well as dream state. your journey to discover more about yourself as well as your brother, seems like it is meant to happen. while some of it may be hard, i think to fill in the blanks, always helps one to gain a better understanding of why and how things happen. best of luck to you on your journey –

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    1. Thank you. I agree. I think it is important to try and fill in as many blanks as we can. I think the blank spaces often cause the most pain. I want to say that while I haven’t commented on your blog in quite some time, but I get your posts in my email, and late at night, when I’m often feeling gloomy, your posts always make me smile.

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  2. That is a lot to process. I only vaguely recall you ever talking of your brother…if at all [I experience some of that same confusion about what is remembered from life, remembered from dreams and only imagined]. The road trip sounds lie a good idea, I had one in the fall to the east coast and back. Long driving trips by myself are always magical for me and stimulate a lot of creativity. I expect I’ll be home when you are in Arizona and you are welcome to visit if you’d like, and if I have a guest room that is your if you want to use it. On my own solo trips I often want to emphasize the solo, so no obligation exists; just know that you are welcome if you want to come.

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    1. I didn’t talk much about my brother for a long time. Back then, I think I believed in the “it doesn’t exist if I don’t talk about it” philosophy. It was easier to just ignore it all.

      I do like road trips too. There’s something magical (to use your word) about being on the road. There is peace and joy to be found in solitude.

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  3. I am so excited to see and catch up with you. I agree with you in that my memories are also fading. Of my Dad who passed away. Of our Brother. And other memories of me growing up. But I am excited. To dig deeper with you! I love that you are doing this. Xo

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