My brother and I shared a special bond, perhaps as close as twins, though we were one year apart. I was the supposedly more responsible one, but in reality we were a dynamic duo, communicating as much by the telepathy of body language as spoken words.
Perhaps my oldest memory is from when we were in a group home together, having been taken into care due to neglect. I did all the speaking. since I was old enough to talk and Jeremy could only communicate with me. I brokered a deal to swap toys with another boy. I did not value the poorly decorated cushions that my mother had made for us while hospitalized with one of her breakdowns, and swapped one for a toy dog. She barely noticed when we were released back into her custody.
Climbing on the shed in the back yard and parachuting our Action Men (tr. GI Joes) off the roof, then jumping off ourselves to retrieve our dolls and climb up again.
In school, class could not end soon enough for us to be reunited in the school yard, playing together in a group or by ourselves. Our schoolyard was something of an adventure playground, with concrete pipes, marine style scramble nets, and a disused van with all glass removed. One day a kid brought in a large industrial nut to kick around in the playground, only to have it confiscated by the first teacher who saw it. It lay on their desk at the front through lessons, a shiny target on display.
So of course, some kid stole it back off the desk for break, and a gang of miscreants led by my brother were chasing it around the playground.
Meanwhile I had climbed on top of the van, and momentarily looked away from the action on the ground as Jeremy’s toe connected.
I never felt the impact. All I remember was a sudden darkening of my vision as my head tipped forward for no apparent reason. I came to on the hard tarmac eight feet below surrounded by teachers discussing how the missile had got into the playground.
I suppose we were tougher in those days before traumatic brain injury. Unconscious, I must have been completely relaxed as I fell, I remember no bruises from the fall, no blood, no hospital visit. Just off to play again with Jeremy.
The adventures could not last forever, but our forever was shorter than most. Jeremy died in another adventure, when I was not watching out for him. My world has never been the same since.
I will never forget my step father telling the babysitter that day that we could roam free unsupervised. I don’t know if my step father’s bullying of me started then, or whether it just rolled off my back with my brother as my natural ally. My mother relates that he felt threatened by me already.
This was the occasion of my mother’s last nervous breakdown. Lithium therapy had been discovered, which chopped the edges off her illness so that she did not did not need to be hospitalized, and could subsist on part-time work with her bills paid for by her father.
There was no grief counseling for me. I don’t know what there would be today in England, but I hope that things are different now.