Blood brother

April 25, 2016 at 4:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Andy Birth

I had two half brothers – the children of my mother and her first husband, Len.

Apparently, Mum had been deeply in love and extraordinarily happy with Len.

Photo albums, which have only just come to light, attest to this.

Way too early, Len got cancer of the everything and died, leaving Mum bereft and in dire financial straits.

When Mum remarried, Len was almost never mentioned – for fear of offending her second husband, Wim.

So this account is not reliable.

I used to tell people that, ‘two half brothers make a whole one’.

I don’t know why; I was probably trying to sound clever.

Brother David was a troubled and terrifying figure.

Brother Andrew, the elder, less so.

I idolised them both and would sneak into their bedroom at night and lie on the thin floor rug.

Just to occupy the same space.

When Andrew was old enough to be in a band, he had a bass guitar.

I recall this due to the fat strings and four large tuning keys – one of which I was soon to be intimately acquainted with.

One Saturday morning, Andrew had spent much time tuning the guitar.

Wishing to  have a shower, he warned me in explicit terms not to touch the instrument in his absence.

As soon as I heard the water running, I ran my hands over the glossy red surface and plucked at the strings.

Then I experimented with the effect of the tuning keys upon them.

By the time I was finished, I had no hope of returning the guitar to its former state.

At this moment, Andrew re-entered the room.

He was so enraged at my disobedience that he picked up the guitar and hit me on the head with it – tuning keys first.

The result surprised us both. One of the keys must have severed a particularly vascular part of my scalp, as blood began gushing freely.

Against my snow-white hair, the effect was dramatic to say the least.

I didn’t feel much pain, but I do remember Andrew’s blind panic.

Our mother and my father were due to return to the family home soon.

As I was something of a ‘golden child’, Andrew knew that Wim’s wrath would be swift and complete.

So he tried to cut a deal with me.

First, he stemmed the blood with Bandaids.

Next he ‘dinked’ me on his bike around the block.

Then he gave me 20 cents. A week’s pocket money in those days.

Finally, he implored me at length not to ‘dob’ on him.

I agreed.

Yet when my parents arrived home, the very first thing I said was, ‘Andrew hit me with his guitar’.

45 years later, I still don’t know why I dropped him in the shit.

I think, perhaps, that I was a little shit.

The guitar went on to a varied yet tepid career at my primary school.

Andrew spent four years dying agonisingly of motor neurone disease before reaching 60.

This is the first time I’ve written about him.

As it’s currently 4:35 am, I don’t think it’ll be the last.

If you found this content useful or entertaining, you may wish to:

Even a buck or three will keep me in the hunt. With many thanks, Paul.



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  1. Thank you Paul. This is a small insight into a world that we have no way of knowing . What you have given Mel is beyond worth.

    • Thank YOU, Reid. I now have the answer to the question, ‘Why the hell did I get out of bed to write this?’ Your comment means a very great deal to me. Please give Mel my love. Kind regards, P.

  2. Somehow you’ve made me sympathise with Andrew in this beautifully constructed story even though his violence was unwarranted. Or was it? I saw a funny meme the other day where someone has been stabbed in the eye with a stick and the caption says, “When your sibling is saying, ‘It’s fine, you’ll be fine, don’t tell Mum’.”

    One of my boys threw a rock at his little brother once and struck him on the head. The blood poured out and he too was a blondie which made it look catastrophic and sent me into a dramatic conniption!

    Once again you have stuck a chord with your witty and eloquent words, Paul 🙂

    • Hi, Michelle! Lovely to see you, as always. I think I thoroughly deserved what I got. Certainly in retrospect. And it was (almost) worth it to catch another glimpse of your fascinating past. Thank you for being such a generous contributor to this narrative. Best regards, P.

  3. Feisty this story has made me sad thinking of how the dynamics must have worked in your house when you were growing up. Your story also shows us that it was like other homes where sometimes siblings hurt each other but did feel regret even if it came in the idea of “getting into trouble”. I think that being the youngest we always tend to be a “little shit” because we want to emulate our older siblings. I am looking forward to more stories of Andy even if they are written at odd hours of the night. Maybe that’s when you think think of him the most?

    • Dear Gemma, I love how you read and respond so beautifully (and helpfully!). Next month it’s ten years since mum died and a year since dad died. Doncaster has never felt more desolate. Andy didn’t have a funeral, so I didn’t write a eulogy. Perhaps some more memories, as you suggest, will serve instead. With deep appreciation for your kindness and wisdom, F.

  4. Beautifully said, Paul, as always. I hit my sister in the head with a hoe once. Unintentional. Hospital. Tetanus shot. I kicked my other sister in the hand once, and fractured her thumb. The kick was intentional, but the outcome certainly not. I can no longer recall the various miseries I inflicted on my brother. Anyway, there’s much to be said for forgiving the indiscretions of youth. And even good intentions now pay for ill-formed intentions then, I reckon. Keep the wonderful stories coming …

    • Thank you, Ad. Your family dinners must be a riot. I’ll be putting corks on the forks next time we dine. Once again, I’m grateful for the thread of memories you add to this work. Kind regards and, like Uncle Bert always said, steer clear of hoes. P.

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