I am My Brother’s Keeper

My little brother, Adam, was in the living room watching TV. He could be so captivated by the show that he would literally tune everything else out. So, when I heard my “Step-Monster” yelling for him I knew I’d better go see what was going on. As I walked toward my brother I realized she was approaching him quickly and the screaming was getting louder. I couldn’t believe what happened next, but the rage in her eyes and the blood-curdling scream from my 7-year-old brother snapped me back to reality!

At 14 I was barely 5 feet tall and 100 lbs. soaking wet. I should have been scared to confront an abusive and oppressive parental figure. But I wasn’t, or at least I didn’t let it control me.

I couldn’t—I had to protect him!

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 5.23.10 PMBefore I go any further I should provide you with some context through a little of my family history so you can truly understand my “Step-Monster’s” character. My parents divorced when I was just 2 and around the time I was 5, my dad had remarried Suzie, the “Step-Monster”. She never liked me and the feeling became very mutual. She was a little off, always so mean and sadistic.

The moniker “Step-Monster” perfectly describes Suzie. One morning I had been awake for hours and my dad had long gone to work.  Suzie still hadn’t awakened from her nightly coma, she could sleep all day!  I made my way into the kitchen and found something no child could resist. A sugary box of cereal, strawberry flavored Honey Combs, to be exact. I pushed the chair over to the cabinet and got a bowl and spoon, poured the milk and I was in business—so I thought. A couple of bites in, an ominous figure walks into the kitchen and scowls at me. The tension was immediate. Think of when Darth Vader walks onto the screen for the first time in Star Wars. The room was terrified by his presence alone. She immediately reprimanded me, “What are you eating?!” She snatched my bowl of cereal and dropped it in the sink. Then she slammed a box of Wheaties down on the table and said, “You can eat this!” She could have at least allowed me to eat the forbidden bowl instead of throwing it away? But that was not in her character. Being mean was.

Depriving a kid of cereal for breakfast may not seem so severe, I get it. You might be thinking, “come on, you were a kid, it couldn’t have been that bad, right?!”

Suzie was verbally, mentally and physically abusive. I was only spared the physical part, as I later learned, because my mom gave Suzie a stern warning before she married my dad. She told Suzie that if she ever laid a hand on me that there would be no place she could hide. Incredible intuition because nobody knew about the abuse yet.

Unfortunately, that warning didn’t stop Suzie from abusing my younger siblings, Adam and Suzanne, right in front of me. By the time my sister and brother were walking they were being hit with wooden spoons, grabbed and squeezed, and tossed around like rag dolls. It was very hard to take but I was just a helpless kid. My dad was always at work. I hated being with her at all, but especially when he was gone. The kids had no idea why they were being punished. The number of tears, bruises, and overall fear was unreal. They were far too young for capital punishment.

One time Suzie pinched my sister’s cheek so hard that she drew blood. Another time my sister, probably 2 or 3 at the time, had accidentally wet the bed. Suzie grabbed her by her collar and waste band and tossed her about 3 or 4 feet in the air. She landed on her hands and knees and collapsed to the ground from the pressure. My baby sister started screaming and was paralyzed with fear.

When I was about 8 or 9 my dad moved to a new neighborhood. They didn’t know anybody and I had no friends. After my dad went to work, Suzie locked me out of the house with nothing but my bike. No food but plenty of water as all the neighbors had garden hoses, even though we didn’t. I wandered the streets like a homeless person until it started getting dark. Most kids are told to come home when the streetlights came on. I just went home because it was getting dark and I was scared in a strange neighborhood I didn’t know. She told my dad I disobeyed her and just took off. Didn’t mention that she locked me out and I hadn’t eaten all day because of it.

So, that’s her character! Now that you have a little context I can continue with the story. I had either been protecting my brother and sister from her or soothing them after her attacks their entire lives. So, when I saw her advancing from the hallway toward my brother who had obviously tuned her out, I knew what was coming. I didn’t expect her to cock her leg back like a place kicker and boot my 7-year-old brother so hard in the hip that he lifted off the ground screaming in pain.

It was kind of surreal. I thought she broke his leg and she was still yelling. At this point I was maybe 10 feet from her and something snapped inside me.

“WHAT THE blank ARE YOU DOING?! GET AWAY FROM HIM NOW!”

For the first time, I saw a look of fear in her eyes. She looked at me with disbelieve but stayed put and we started arguing.  I was in full on Protector mode and I wasn’t backing down. In the middle of all this my dad had, finally came home and it was a good thing as I feared it was about to get physical between her and I. She tried to give her version but I was on FIRE! With authority, I explained that she had just tried to kick a field goal with Adam as the football. My Dad had always been in denial regarding the severity and harshness of her but with Adam still flopping around on the floor like a fish out of water and writhing in pain, he could no longer deny it.

Had I not interrupted her I suspect she would have at the very least, “punished” him for crying too loudly. Regardless, I was happy that I stopped her and the reward for my rebelliousness was tremendous! My Dad and “Step-Monster” soon divorced. I didn’t set out to play this role, it was thrust upon me. I just can’t shake it. its stayed with me forever and it doesn’t matter if its family, a friend, a stranger on the street, a crusader with a cause, or a client- I’m compelled to slay their dragons and kill their villains. I have no choice but to protect them and you. The phrase, “my brother’s keeper” has an entirely different meaning for me. It’s a calling, I am everybody’s keeper.

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