Joy and Unfettered Idealism (words for my brothers)
This morning I had my brother Yasser on my mind (follow his musings of bachelor living on twitter @psybach). He is five and a half years younger than me, so in my world, he’s a baby! But alas, I’ve promised him (and myself) to give him the honor of calling him my “younger” brother. I shouldn’t infantilize the man. He has had an array of experiences at the ripe old age of 21 that I dare say I shall never enjoy.
One of the many things I admire about my brother is his vivid imagination. Growing up, I always enjoyed drawing, and our parents couldn’t afford to buy us toys (though quite frankly, I sneakily believe our grad-students-into-perpetuity parents simply did not WANT to buy us toys. They were pretty progressive anti-capitalists). So to keep each other busy, we made our own toys. Yasser would describe the fantastic adventure trapped in his mind as quickly as he could, and I would “make it happen”. Stumbling over words, careful and quick in his choice of descriptions, waving his hands frantically, Yasser helped me *see* the special powers of the protagonist hero narrator of his adventure. He always had such a vivid imagination. He wanted to act them out and though I did not want to admit it, so did I! After a while, I lost interest in drawing out Yasser’s fantasies. Turning his dreamed up characters into prismacolor and liquitex on cardboard “flesh” started feeling like a waste of my 15 year old time. Namely, as my interest in Kandinsky and Klimt then became infatuation over Tyrone & Raphael, drawing saber toothed amphibio-sapiens after school seemed uber lame…
So I taught Yasser how to draw his own superheroes. This independence was great for his imagination, and gave me plenty of time to daydream about my high school crushes. Secretly however, I can now admit it made me feel obsolete. Yasser had no use for me. The rift between he and I started then. This is the point when we started treating each other like “tv siblings” – spiteful, incessant fighting, hurting each other, stressing our mother so much she started having epileptic seizures again.
One divorce, a bloody custody battle and another marriage later, I moved out. It was the spring semester of my junior year of high school and I did all I could to stay out of ACS‘ radar (I was 16). Stayed in the lobby of my mother’s apt building, hung out at union square, rode the subway all night, strolled the streets w/other “village rats”, always open to a “slumber party” at a friend’s house.
By the time school was out, my older brother had beckoned me to come stay with him in Maryland for the summer. Yasser was relieved I was gone, my mother stopped having siezures, all was well in the home front.
Well, not really. I was angry and consumed by hate. I felt betrayed by my parents and especially my brother Yasser. He and I lived together in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. For so many years, it was just Yasser, Aisha and their passport while Mom & (his) Dad were pursuing their degrees. I felt so alone, so empty, unloved.
Then full circle – the same issues I faced at 16, Yasser started to experience, but ten fold! Unlike me who had a network of supporters (Lola, Alina, my older brothers), he had been home schooled, knew no one and found himself scrambling to pay rent at 17. The military made the most sense, though I did not know it at the time. By then, I was 22 and in law school. His tragedy is what brought us back together. After seeing how I struggled and then suffering more than I did, we were bonded by a reflection in circumstance. We forgave each other. We recognized our faults. We identified where we hurt each other. I showed him my love beyond words with my presence and so did he.
You, Yasser, through your resilience restored my hope. You, Jason (older brother) nurtured my joy and my will to live. You taught me forgiveness, pointed out that I am strong enough. Yasser, YOU are strong enough. Our journeys emptied us out and gave us room for joy!
My joy and unfettered idealism lies in my struggles. It was born of your unconditional love.