About A Boy

So.. what did happen next?!

What happened next was amazing actually... not yet my happy ending but only because the end isn't here yet. But that post is for another day very soon. Today I want to tell you about a boy....

He had sandy brown hair when he was little. It got darker as he grew though. He was tall... lanky and bony, “all limbs” as my Nan would say. Like me when I was younger, though that's far from what you'd call me now! Sometimes I wonder if he would have continued growing taller... not that it makes much difference, he towered above me as it was by the time he was in his early teens.

He was smart... in a quiet way. He didn't brag, kept himself to himself really. But he loved a good laugh. Loved to be having a joke with the family and feel included. It didn't happen often... He loved to draw, be creative. We all have actually, we get it from her. I remember how interested he was in cars... he wanted to be a mechanic but not fixing them, he wanted to get into spray painting. He was always drawing them with fancy paintwork he'd designed. My ex-husband took an interest in his art once - an Art Director for a games company - it made his day to have such a critic.

He was quite a typical boy in a lot of ways... didn't like to wash, his bedroom was always a tip and stank of dirty washing, or clothes that haven't dried properly. You know that smell. But then as a child, he should have had someone doing his washing for him. 

I remember when he came home with a tattoo. I wasn't living at home then. I went ballistic. He'd had "Satan's Angel" tattooed on his arm towards the wrist. Later when I was helping him find a job, we had to cover it up for interviews! I was really annoyed for some reason. I have one too now, though slightly more discreet. I think I was annoyed that he'd done it probably to please his "mates" and I wanted more from him. More for him.

And they were the wrong kind of mates definitely. I never met any of them. None of us every brought friends home but I knew when his school work started suffering and his attendance that he was in with the wrong crowd. I suppose even that is typical these days.

I don't remember feeling love for him until I lost him. He was annoying to me when I was growing up. 11 years... there's not a lot of common ground there between a girl and a boy with such a gap. And I had my own problems to deal with. We would fight a lot. He would be naughty to get attention. Any was better than none in his mind I guess. But I know I did.

We were both the odd ones out. Both step-children to the latest dad, who soon became a dad to his “own” children with our mother. I think the difference was that I was older by the time the last step-dad arrived. He was a baby and he grew up thinking the person disciplining him was his own dad. It came out in an argument one day... It was thrown back in his face at a point when he was at his most vulnerable by the 2 people as a child you trust with every fibre.

I remember when I left home, being so worried about him. Worried that without me there, he would disappear into himself and be lost completely. He was so quiet and withdrawn by the time I left. We both were. Both too introverted, we couldn't find comfort in each other. Instead I think he found me a form of competition for their affections and I couldn't see him at all.  I told the social services about my concerns and they said they would keep an eye out.  

I tried to stay in touch with all 3 of them after I left. The 2 children that came later were fine. The rules seemed to be more relaxed for them but for some reason made even worse for him. He became even more of an outsider to them... the real “family”. I remember a family trip we all took before I left. We were visiting the step-grandparents family in Europe. Our grandma so proudly presented her son's children to her family and followed with... oh and "these are her children". It's amazing what people don't think children can hear. I never knew if he heard that, if he felt the rejection as I did.

Once I visited and they had thrown him out. Unlike me, only as far as the garden where I found him living in a caravan. After I left home, they all moved to my step-dads parents... they had a lot of land and he was going to build a house on it. To be fair he did eventually but for 3 or 3 years they lived in a caravan. And I mean a caravan... not a motorhome. Or the kind of thing you’d find secured to the beaches along the British coast. One of those flimsy, small things that has a shower over the toilet. For years... in the damp and the cold. They couldn’t use his parents’ house for random reasons so they spent all of their time in this caravan. 5 of them. After the new house was built they kept the caravan.

I can’t remember the reason, it was pretty lame. But there he was... all the curtains shut, still stinking of boy. He didn’t seem to mind but if you looked into his eyes, they’d tell you a different story. I wanted to reach out to him, so often but he was a boy. A teenage boy... I just didn’t know how.

I can’t remember how long he was there. Doing his own washing (or lack of), cooking for himself... but then we’d all had to do that. I used to collect the other 2 from school sometimes when they came to mine for a visit and was disgusted by the state of their uniforms. They were either filthy or stank. I would get so mad but I didn’t do anything.

He finished school barely. Got terrible results. And the next thing I knew he was living miles away near the coast. With new “mates” and an on again/off again girl that would drive him mad. I never met any of them either but I would go down there and try and help him find a job. I arranged meetings with the under 18s advisors to help him find somewhere half decent to stay. Spoke to bosses he done work placements for to get references, but he was so far away.

He got no support from his “parents”. He was left to fend for himself. Just like me. And just like me, I thought he could handle it.

Then his girlfriend got pregnant. “It’s yours” she told him. We don’t know if it was true or not. There was every possibility it wasn’t. She messed him around constantly. He child was his. He wasn’t his. Mother would have nothing to do with her or the baby, she was cutting him off if he took the baby in. Not sure from what... she’d done that a long time ago. He loved the girl. He loved the boy. I spoke to her after the funeral. She was blamed by mother for what happened next and I felt for her. She was just a child herself... scared probably. Her parents were useless too. And so the world turns. There was no more blame with her than with the straw that broke the camel’s back.

At just 17... Rejected by his mother from the moment it became clear having the child the guy wanted didn’t make the relationship work. By a dad he hadn’t known and another who reminded him daily that he was not one of them. A long way from “home”. In love with a stupid girl that couldn’t stop playing games, with a child he couldn’t support. Sounds textbook doesn’t it.

And then he was gone.

I remember one day thinking I was happy. It was a few weeks after my wedding. My first day back at work. My work partner was over. My ex-husband and he were watching a gory movie and I stayed up to watch with them for a change. I knew things wouldn’t be easy for my ex and I. Our relationship was not perfect. But I thought I was as content as I had ever been. I thought I must get in touch with my brother. He called during the wedding. I didn’t speak to him... I was too busy and I was annoyed still from our argument and the fact that he wasn’t there. He should have been but I couldn’t afford to pay for him too. To sort his transport, accommodation and clothes out. Hadn’t I already done that for my ex-husbands family? He was 17! Old enough to sort himself out... wasn’t he? But I’d get in touch. I wanted to make amends, he was precious to me and I knew he needed me. I would see how I could help him now I’d gotten the wedding out of the way.

Those are the thoughts I was having, 6 years ago tomorrow at the same time my brother was committing suicide. It was not a cry for help.

Every year there is a battle of wills. The side that wants to forget I even had a brother. And the side that will let me forget for most of the year until there’s nowhere to hide. I’ve never won. And the strange thing is, what I miss the most is what I looked forward to having one day. When we were both a bit older.. being someone he could come to for relationship/family or work advice. Having a brother that I could always rely on to be there for me. Seeing him grow into a man, a husband and dad.. I miss what will never now be more than anything.

My brother wasn’t strong enough to survive the childhood we shared. And his case is nothing like some of the children out there that need our help. He is a massive part of why I want to adopt. I wonder what he would be like now, had he had the chance I want to give, and raised by loving parents that always wanted children. But I always thought, things need to be more serious before you involve the authorities. But it’s amazing what you get used to. What you start to think isn’t “serious”.

It doesn’t matter what your reasons. Whether it’s by choice, or because it’s the only one left. If you’re considering adopting, go to that first meeting. If you’re on the road, don’t give up. It’s hard, but stay with it. You could make a difference. I missed my chance to make a difference to my brother. And every year around now, I will remember that I didn’t try hard enough to save him. Now I can only make it up to another child or children. And I will... we will.

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