What It’s Like to Have a Brother

Brother Baris Circa 1940

Today would have been my brother Baris’ seventy-eighth birthday. Although I never met him in life, his ghost haunted my childhood, figuratively speaking – same as with my two older sisters.

The simple truth is that had he lived, maybe one, two or all three of us other kids would have never been born. You see, each of us was our parents’ attempt to replace him.

Baris’ life was difficult from the outset. My parents were dirt poor, staring out their marriage living in a chicken coop on a farm where my dad was a hired hand. As a child he suffered a head injury when he fell. Never fully recovering from that he suffered periodic seizures until his death in the spring of 1945.

Joyce, Genette and me in 1957

I say that my sisters and I might not be here had he lived out of a general sense that our parents might have been content to have only he one child, a boy. Certainly their world would have been different. The reasons for trying to have other children would have been removed. Mom might not have wanted to go through childbirth again. Even if she did, my oldest sister may have been the old other child. She might have gone for a third child as well, but I really and rule doubt I’d be around because Mom was pouching forty by then and even when she consulted her doctor about the possibility of having me he advised her against it.

Mom, Dad and Baris (Brother) Circa 1940

Growing up, there were pictures of Baris in our home in photo albums and one adorning the wall, as one might expect. There was his favorite jacket that I wore sometimes as it became mine as well. But moreover my mother told me I was his replacement, the answer to her prayers of twenty years. When I think back about the times my mom said things like that to me I realize that was a pretty heavy burden to lay on a little kid. I can understand it, why I was always compared to him in her mind, but it did not make it right.

A parents aren’t intended to outlive their children let alone lose one so early in a marriage as my parents did. It sterns a relationship, to be sure, and it is something that remains int he background throughout the remainder of a couples individual lives as well as their marriage. No one who hasn’t experienced it can really understand or truly comment on it. My understanding comes from seeing the after effects that lingered into my life and shaped my childhood.

Instead of being myself as a child I felt compelled to be whatever Baris might have been. As I grew beyond the nearly nine years of age that Baris had reached prior to his death, I developed my own goals and direction – essentially outgrowing the ghost of my early years. So maybe, overall the point is moot whether my life might have had different potentials had he lived. But it is something I still think about every year as my own birthday approaches. A sobering thought or two about what might have been had my brother survived. He would have been a young man by the time I was born, an older brother who might have seemed more like an uncle, taking me places and showing me things he’d learned while growing up.

Only boys miss out on what it’s like to have a brother