I put him on a pedestal
I thought he was too great to fall
He was my protector
He blocked the punches.
He was the calm logic that made me feel safe
I’d always wished
my brother was my father
He was never a bully to me then
but he had his moments
He hit me once, repeatedly
a lump formed on my head
He hit me because I defied him
by saying, “I have the right to my truth.”
I said it over and over like a mantra
and he hit me each time
that was the first and last time he ever hit me.
But I guess after years of disappointing my family
especially our Mother
who was already a worrier
something in him switched off
from worry to judgement.
He shouted that I was responsible
for his mother’s death
but she was our mother not just his.
He wouldn’t accept me as a non-Christian
as if that could cause our mother’s cancer.
Cancer happens to believers and non-believers.
Cancer is not discriminatory.
My non-Christian status can’t cause or cure it
and nothing can bring her back.
I lost both my mother and my brother
in less than one week.
“Never return to Maryland.” he said. “Your evil heart shows up in your face and gray hair. You’re an old hag now.”
“I’m nearing 50 years old, why should I color my hair and pretend to be in my twenties? If I look old, it’s because I am old and I’m proud of it.” I said. “Don’t worry, I’ll never return to see You. You’ve broken my heart. You were my favorite person in the world until my son was born but it’s like you’re dead to me now. I’ll always love you but this is our last visit together. Have a good life, Brother. Good bye.”
“How dare she speak to me that way!” he said to our sister. “She’s always been so selfish…”
“You can talk about me all you want when I’m gone, can’t you wait until after I’ve left?”
He drove me and my son to the airport, circling the freeway several times. He got lost repeatedly, something he’s never done before. We barely made it to the airport. It was the last direct flight back home.
We had 10 minutes to go through security and get to our gate. We raced, shoes off and on, our overloaded bags searched and re-zipped, dragging three heavy carry-on-luggage with a backpack on, sweating profusely, but I managed to order my son and I warm soft pretzel snacks to go, while the passengers lined up at the gate; another passenger smiled warmly and said how impressed she was with me. It was welcome comic relief. I worried that other passengers would think I was feverish because of my sweating but no one seemed to notice.
He was my favorite person in the world before I had my son but because he hated what I wrote, (my sister showed him the short memoir story that I published), he decided to blame me for everything our mom had suffered. He hated that I revealed our childhood trauma of domestic violence to the world. Korean tradition valued silence as a form of respect.
Writing the truth has made us strangers now, but it’s always been a form of healing for me. I’m a writer, I’ve written journals and poetry since I was 8 yrs old. Writing helped me to survive, sanity intact. It gave me freedom of thought, freedom of expression, permission to heal through deep reflection and an antidote for denial and victimhood. I am a writer and I will not stop telling my genuine version of truth.