My older brother was my first hero.
He’s a dozen years older than me and had already moved out of the house by the time I started going to school. But some of my best early memories are of him proudly toting me around town like his little mascot, whether he was taking me to movies or racetracks or making me sit in the back seat of his car and watch him make out with girls because he’d been saddled with babysitting duty and had dragged me along on a date.
One of my fondest memories ever was when I was about three or four and we were lying in bed. He pretended he was asleep and that I was his teddy bear and would cuddle me close. He’d fake waking up, rub his eyes, say, “Where’s my little teddy bear?” and then hug me up against him and pretend he fell asleep again. He showed more affection to me in that single incident than my parents ever gave me in a lifetime.
When he moved out of the house he also moved out of state, and there were long patches where we wouldn’t talk or see one another for years. There was never any falling out—at least not back then—it was merely that we’d gone off spinning in completely different directions.
I’m not sure what happened to him over the years—whether it was one traumatic situation that fucked him up forever or a gradual accretion of bad choices that cast him permanently adrift—but he’s only a husk of what he used to be. He used to be funny and full of life. Now he’s about as lively as a worn-out bean-bag chair smeared with cat shit.
He got married three times and had two daughters from his first marriage. About twenty years ago I heard through the family grapevine that one of his daughters accused him of molesting her. She’s now dead from a drug overdose. He also adopted a son through his third marriage. That kid is now a male prostitute.
My brother used to make a living as an electronics salesman but gradually shifted careers and became a house-cleaner and butler for a wealthy family. Part of his duties involved shuttling the family’s two teenaged boys to and from school.
About ten years ago when I was hard-up for cash, my brother put me on his cell-phone family plan. He upgraded his phone and gave me his old one.
He forgot to delete a photo depicting some young boy’s naked ass. I figured it was one of the two boys he took to and from school.
To this day I’m not sure how I was able to block all of those memories out and let him babysit my own kid when he’d pass through town, but I hate myself for it anyway. It’s not as if I forgot about all those things—I don’t think you ever forget anything, you just have trouble retrieving the memories—but I never thought of them, not even once, when I agreed to let him babysit my daughter.
What’s worse, my kid has learning disabilities and can’t talk, so I’d have no way of knowing whether my brother ever molested her. But a few years ago I received a knock on the door from local school authorities. Apparently my daughter was taking teachers’ hands and placing them on her genitals, and the officials wanted to ask some questions about why this was happening.
They interviewed both me and my wife and walked away satisfied that we had done nothing wrong. Even then, it didn’t occur to me to suspect my brother.
But the few times we allowed him to babysit, my wife noticed the same thing whenever she got home from work—he’d leave quickly without saying a word. Nothing about what had happened while he was babysitting, how many times my daughter ate, how many diapers he had to change—nothing. He’d just dash away silently like a perpetrator fleeing a crime scene. Even if she was in the middle of asking him a question—WHOOSH!—he was gone.
There was also one morning a couple years back when we had Easter breakfast at my mother-in-law’s house and had invited my brother along. At the breakfast table, there was something about the way he talked to my wife’s seven-year-old niece that had both me and my wife crawling out of our skin. She and I talked about it later—it’s not as if he’d said anything inappropriate, but there was something about his tone that was creepiness squared.
Two years ago he and I got into one of those arguments that escalates to the point where you wind up throwing everything you can at the other person. I wound up telling him why we no longer let him babysit our daughter.
I followed him as he stomped out to his car. He said one last thing to me before slamming his door and peeling out:
An innocent person doesn’t say “PROVE it!”
That was the last time I ever spoke to him, and I doubt I ever will again. He knows that for us to ever be on speaking terms again, we’d have to have that conversation, and I doubt he ever wants to have that conversation.
I’m not the type to call the cops, but if he was ever in my presence again, it would be difficult not to slowly rip him limb from limb. I think he’s acutely aware that if I ever saw him again, his little teddy bear would kill him.
I try to remember the good times, but he cast a giant shadow over all of them.
It’s hard to put into words how disillusioned I am that the only family member I ever really loved is probably a soulless, kid-diddling creep.
My older brother was my first hero, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be my last.