It dawned on me today that all my sisters, all four of them, knew what was going to happen but did not dare to tell me. They knew that my only brother would soon betray me and said nothing. They let down our sisterhood.
My whole life I’d based my identity around family. I loved each sibling and my mom and would have gladly sacrificed my life for them. It never occurred to me that they didn’t have the same devotion to me, the same loyalty and love. How foolish and naïve to have behaved so confidently, trusting that “Love never fails.” Looking back, that was just ‘black and white’ thinking left over from my years of being indoctrinated by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The year before, my baby brother, youngest of six, was sitting on my couch trying not to cry as he told me about his breakup. I was feeling it with him because I understood all too well the pain of heartbreak. I put my arm around his shoulders, and I kissed the top of his head. We sat there quietly until the early morning hours staring at the empty wall above the fireplace. Once he was sober, he drove home.
Soon after that day his replies to my texts and phone calls started to slow down. When I’d ask my sisters if they’d heard from him, they said he was hanging with a new group of friends and that he’d also met a girl. No one volunteered any information other than saying they’d only met once or twice with his new set of friends. I knew my brother; he liked to go ‘total immersion’ into situations; he’d done it before, so I thought nothing more.
The word, ‘friends’ should have set off alarm bells though. I’ve been disfellowshipped so long out of the Jehovah’s Witness cult that I missed the association. In their Congregations, they refer to each other as Brother and Sister and collectively as, ‘the friends in the faith.’ Witnesses don’t date one on one and are only with the opposite sex in a group setting when they have the intention of marriage.
My mom and siblings had many opportunities to tell me there was a major situation brewing as the months went by. The situation being *ME.* They knew the girl my brother was interested in came from a family active in the faith; I did not know. The last twenty years the practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses in my family should have been shunning me. Instead, they’d all been going on vacations with my wife and me. Having dinner at each other’s houses and behaving normally with each other.
I remember I was a little hurt my brother didn’t tell me personally he was getting married. I heard it from a nonwitness family friend. I was confused, but I was too happy at the news to give those feelings much thought. In my imagination, I was already planning a celebratory dinner as the world had never seen. I was running so far ahead of everyone I was already planning where I wanted to take their future children camping. I was elated. I felt my heart stretching in my chest as it filled up with so much love.
Finally returning my call, he’s asking to come over he is in the area. Thrilled I quickly hang up so I can run a brush thru my hair. I think he must be finally bringing over his fiancee so that we can meet her.
He walks in alone and looking somber. I feel disoriented when I notice he isn’t making eye contact with me but I shake it off it might be because I’m high. His weird vibe prompted me to ask if everyone is ok, is mom ok. He says, “Yes they are, but we need to talk.” Still not understanding but so relieved I try to be funny and say, “Darn right Son-shine, how come I have to hear from a stranger you are engaged? Where is she why didn’t you bring her over?” As I give him a tight hug and a big kiss on his cheek and tell him, I love him.
“She’s one of Jehovah’s Witnesses too.” He states in a monotone.
Too? Stupidly I do not understand the connection to him or me because I’ve not had to think about it for decades.
“We can’t associate with you anymore. We won’t be able to talk to you unless you repent and come back. You know that.” He stands up to leave.
I get it. I sit down hard in my chair my body going cold and numb.
I reach out my hand to him and say “My brother, together we have infinite potential, don’t go, you are murdering my soul.”
“I know.” The last words I hear as he walks out my front door.