- Andre Lamartin
My Brother´s Keeper
Brothers raised in the same household share memories of life that never grow old. Sharing a room while keeping the peace is the first lesson of brotherhood later taken to the streets. Parents ask the older brother to be a role model, but the temptation of harassment frequently seduces the apostle. Arguments come, but always subside; no transgression survives the passage of time. Sharing a childhood is no small feat; these formative years are of life lessons replete. When a brother´s weight becomes too heavy to bear, his sibling supports him through dark moments of despair. For bloodlines are incomparably stronger than a friend´s allegiance and honor. These are all personal observations made, destined throughout life never to fade. I owe my younger brother an enormous debt of gratitude, for having taught me the true meaning of brotherhood.
My younger brother was named in honor of Pope John Paul II, as my mother had health issues in the final trimester. He was born into the world before the usual time, fighting for dear life despite not being in his prime. His arrival at home heralded a new era: my brief reign of three years had come to an end, as a new rival for my throne now dared contend. In all seriousness, those childhood years were peaceful and devoid of any significant lament. Those were years of joy when our family united, waltzed peacefully through a life never benighted. There were games to play and birthdays to celebrate. There were costumes to wear and adventures to role-play. Trips to the beach and castles of sand, meticulously built to briefly stand.
If we had a competitive friendship, the fault was entirely my own. Sometimes at night, I would tell him scary stories that kept us both awake, while he struggled with fear, I laughed the night away. Pranks were also a daily occurrence, but the bullying he suffered was later the source of his emotional endurance. Though it was all made in jest, my mindless fun was the cause of his daily unrest. While he was still learning to speak, I referred to him only as “Bua”, for this was the sound he made when he cried. My mother then berated me for being so unkind, for “Bua” became the first name imprinted on his mind. Much effort was needed before he could learn his real name, this kind of bullying I deemed fair game. In retrospect, I should have known much better. Memories of past childhood games are now only recalled as a reason for personal shame, so much more could I have done for the one sharing my family´s name.
My blindness was to see him as an exact equal to myself, though the myriad differences were clear to himself. If I excelled in school without any assistance, he should be expected to display the same level of persistence, attaining the same grades, if not surpassing my marks, for the differences between us were never so stark. My mother new better and pleaded for my assistance, but I refused to believe that my brother could not cover the same distance. He should only rely on his own two legs, for whatever talents I had, he most certainly possessed. He just never displayed the requisite effort, for he could certainly undertake anyone of my endeavors. But this was my obtuse, personal error. Though cut from the same cloth, brothers come in different sizes, a truth disregarded despite all maternal advices. By simply setting a personal example of academic excellence, but refusing to my brother assist, an impossible standard of arrogance was set, simply encouraging him to desist. Despite being always responsible and rendering him advice, his academic performance suffered due to a disciplinarian blindness, my own personal vice.
Brothers are equals in life, but their differences are sometimes equally rife. My brother was much more communicative and gregarious than myself. Undertaking ponderous responsibilities and pressures at an early stage, made me absolutely more serious than was necessary for my age. While I tended to isolate myself and be excessively individualistic about my pursuits, my brother had a much better sense of belonging and working in groups. His sense of humor and carefree attitude opened doors that remained locked to my formal and emotionally distant attitude. He always made more friends than my memory could count, retaining a convivial attitude no one could ever discount. He was always a source of uncontrollable laughter, surrounded by friends always indulging in the same banter. If only I had made his conviviality my own, so many future days would never have been spent utterly alone. While I amassed high grades and awards, he collected lifelong friends and remained so adored. But learning from one younger than yourself, requires the humility of mastering oneself.
When my brother fell ill and was suddenly hospitalized, my visits to the hospital were not exactly prized. There was little medical assistance that I could have offered, but perhaps greater emotional support was desperately in order. His hospital stay was a metaphor for our childhood years, while I stood on my own; he lay down facing his fears. At the time this was to me unbeknownst, for I believed that my strengths were exactly his own. Since his assistance was rarely required, in my eyes he was equally independent and admired, a different possibility never in my mind transpired.
Several years would pass before I realized that while trying to be the first of the class, I left my brother behind feeling last. Only when life brought me to my knees, the strong winds that once carried me forward became, but a weak breeze. From a different vantage point in life, could I finally perceive the world through my brother´s eyes. There were limits to what my independence could achieve, and ample reason did I have to no longer in my personal omnipotence believe.
This is when my brother stepped in. Now taller than myself, he helped me stand when my own legs betrayed me as well. Despite being now his own man, he was understanding of a personal predicament that set me back years to where my story began. Where once my trajectory had been meteorically ascendant, life now sent me on a path abysmally descendant. My younger brother, who learned to walk entirely on his own, lowered down to help his older brother now fully grown. Never once revisiting the past, but teaching me that the most important questions, I had never asked. Through my own independence, I had tried to set a personal example, but he showed me that the true meaning of brotherhood is never to be trampled. Personal vanity, disguised as independence, is self-absorption experienced at great social penance.
My brother helped me understand what previously I never could. Anyone can bring a troubled man down, because helping him stand takes compassion. A heart that commands you not to frown, a mind that tames the wildest passion. Seeing the world not from up above, but from down below where he lies. The best demonstration of true love… is seeing the world through his eyes. Feeling the pain that corrodes his bones, hearing the despair in his cries. Shielding his body from sticks and stones, saying the words that will help him rise. Only then will you understand, that his mistakes were not his own, that the saving grace of a helping hand, means that none of us are all alone.