I wrote this in February of 2014 for DearTeenMe.com. It appears that website is no longer in service, so I have transferred it here so it may live on.
Dear Teen Me,
You are standing in the door your grandmother’s kitchen watching a bat do circles around the room. It’s sticking close to the ceiling, so your mom has run to grab a broom. Your brother hears the commotion, walks into the room, and with one smooth movement grabs the iron skillet from the stovetop, and whacks the bat out of the air.
There is a moment of complete relief. The bat, which followed you up from the basement when you grabbed a jar of grandma’s canned peaches, has essentially been taken care of. There is also a moment of sorrow: you didn’t want the bat dead; you only wanted it to leave.
Your brother puts on a glove and gently picks the limp rodent up. Tomorrow will be trash day, so you follow him outside to the curb. He starts to open the can, but instead decides to place it on top of the lid. In case it wakes up. In case it was only in shock.
To your mom and grandma, he’s the hero of the night.
He will keep going outside to look at the trash.
There will be more bats, later that month, but he won’t use the frying pan again. He’ll use the broom, eventually pushing them out the kitchen door.
You’ll spend a lot of time thinking about that summer. Later, your brother will commit another crime, go to prison yet again, and be released for a short while. At this point, you’ll be in your 20s, with a degree in Communications that has gotten you nowhere even close to figuring out what you want to do with you life. On the weekends and holidays, you will try your hardest to bring your brother closer to the family, thinking that maybe you can be the one to change him. You’ll pick him up from his shack, even though you are a little terrified every time you go there because the single room he shares with his friend is in the middle of the woods, and you don’t like the way his roommate’s eyes follow you. But you’ll keep going there to pick him up because you want to do anything you can to keep him out of prison, and you think maybe including him in family functions will somehow fix that.
But it won’t. It can’t.
The next time he goes to prison, he’ll be found guilty of sexual battery.
It is going to take you a long time to process that as Truth. You’ll want to believe he is more the guy that put the bat on top of the trash than the one that killed the bat in the first place. You’ll make excuses for him. You’ll spend years in therapy trying to figure it all out. And you’ll eventually take every emotion you’ve gone through and give it to a fictional girl named Clare. And in helping her accept the truth about her family, you’re going to accept the truth about yours.
One day you’ll have to make the decision of whether or not to have your brother in your life. You’ll need to consider things like your own emotional well-being and whether you trust him around your children. It will be one of the most difficult and painful decisions you will ever make. But it will also be one of the best.
But right now, the two of you are sitting on grandma’s porch, rocking in rocking chairs and watching a delightful lightning storm while you wait to see if the bat is okay. You’re talking about hobbies – his are cars and girls and parties, yours are running and knitting and reading – you don’t have much in common, but you enjoy each other’s company. That’s fine for now.