Several months ago, I was in a café with my writing group, doing little writing prompts. The facilitator had us stick our hands in a hat and pull out a date to inspire us. I pulled my brother’s birthday out of the hat. I am not religious or superstitious, but it’s impossible to not believe that this was a sign that I HAD to write about something that happened in 2021. So here goes.

June 14, 1985

I don’t remember this day. Forgive me – I was only two years, one month, and six days old.

I don’t even know what my earliest memory of my brother is.

I do remember fighting with him, rolling around on the carpet until we spilled the pail of blue paint my mother had stepped away from only three minutes before.

I remember tricking him into not telling on me, into giving me his candy and toys, into doing my bidding.

I was a good big sister.

I remember worrying about him the first time he got caught shoplifting (from Home Depot, of all places), when he was 14.

I remember worrying about him the first time he was suspended from school.

And when he eventually was expelled, 16 months before he was supposed to graduate.

I worried when he dropped out of college. When he’d disappear and not talk to Mom or me for months. “We have to make our peace with it,” Mom and I told each other. “That’s all we can do.”

He eventually came back, my little brother. Started keeping jobs for longer than six weeks. Kept a girlfriend around for even longer than that. She was a family friend who eventually became his wife.

Two months after their wedding, she came home to find him unresponsive, blue, and not breathing, his skin the same color as the bathroom tiles he lay on.

I learned the next day when Mom called that he had been dead for about three minutes.

When I finally talked to him, his voice was raspy like he’d swallowed a whole beach’s worth of sand. I didn’t realize ventilators caused so much damage.

I don’t remember a life without him. Did I even have one, really?

Note: My brother has not relapsed again since this event.

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