Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Family Ties

Today is my youngest brother's fortieth birthday. Kind of a milestone. I can only guess how or if he's celebrating. The last time I saw him was in a courtroom in May 2005, where I was swearing out a restraining order against him. On the same day, my mother took the same action against him. He's got some serious problems and his violence finally got out of hand.

There's nothing the least bit funny about domestic hearings. The way the courts work, the recipient of the restraining order has to be served with a legal notice of the pending action and be given an opportunity to appear in court and answer the charges. Because my brother was homeless after he physically assaulted one of our other sisters and nearly shattered her cheekbone, it took a while for the deputies to serve him. All in all, it took us nearly six months to complete the process. During that time, we had to continue to appear on scheduled court dates, on the off chance he might actually be there and we could conduct our business. We became familiar fixtures in the court, which is hardly an aspiration.

When the day finally came that our case was heard, it was every bit as awful as we anticipated. My brother was all but spitting with rage at me, my mother, our entire family, the judge, the bailiffs, the clerks, my grandfather's mustache. His rage was frightening, even in a room with several armed, well-trained county deputies on hand.

He had his turn to speak. Even through the filter of time, I cringe at what he said, how he said it, why (I think) he said it.

Hearing the judge instate the restraining order didn't make me feel any better. Hearing her say what we already knew -- that he is either addicted to drugs and alcohol or mentally ill, and quite likely both -- just tightened the knot in my stomach. Watching him leave the court, having taken another kick in his life, and realizing the gulf between us may never be breached was a lot like being at a funeral. There was no physical body--what was buried that day was our family and our hope of ever being whole again. I have no way to speak to him, to tell him that I would like to forgive him -- for the horrible things he said to and about me and others whom I care about, for the promises of violence he made that drove me from my own home, for his refusal to see our dying father... and I could forgive them all, if only for the hope of healing.

When you pray, those of you who pray, please remember David, especially today on his birthday. He wasn't always like this.