I know of a man, who ever since I first met him, learned one fact about him;
He was a burden to his family.
His old photos show a handsome ambitious youth.
His siblings’ stories rendered a genius who was to become big, but lost it all in a classic tale of mens’ envy and one woman’s ropes of hope and despair.
My childhood memories show a grumpy scary tall man of cigarettes and scoffs, whose features were forever in a frown.
My teenhood ones painted him in two pictures. One; a gateway to adventure by sneaking into his forbidden den when he’s out to try re-lighting those cigarettes’ ends. The other; a window to what I’ve wished to own;
a desk with all the art tools scattered in a mess of paper, ink and abandoned ideas.
He used to do calligraphy and he was quite good at it.
But it was daunting to create using the bottles of dark thick ink, when it’s far easier to consume the ones filled with intoxicating mind-numbing drinks.
He never noticed me, or any of my siblings when we stayed over their house. He was always focused on his anger, and his constant nagging about money.
My earliest and most vivid memory is of him leaving his room midday for a drink, passing by his old mother’s room, who was sitting on the floor listening to the radio. She was listening to the daily broadcast of who had passed away on that day, which made him comment with a smirk, whether she’s waiting to hear her name over there, then continued shuffling away.
The cruel joke was printed on my brain, and tattooed on my heart.
I’ve hated him since.
One sibling after another, they passed away.
And he -the burden- stayed, always leeching unto the remaining ones for money and random calls to rant and swear.
As an adult, I hated him even more.
What he’s done to his mother, he did again to his sisters. And I love those sisters.
They were too nice for their own good, so they never found it in them to let him go.
He continued to be a burden.
He drank a lot, he swore a lot.
He demanded money and tethered his loved ones with stories of broken legs and burnt arms.
Lies upon lies.
When, last year, he broke a leg badly and needed a surgery to fix it, his sister and her husband paid for it all.
His nephew, through the swearing and the name calling, helped him with his ID card which was lost three times already.
Whatever you give him to live, he spends on drinks.
Whatever you give him to live with, he sells for money — to spend on drinks.
At 63, even with the damaged leg, he stood tall and unbend. Fierce blue eyes glaring with hate at everyone but the cats in his slum neighborhood, and mouth going on and on in contempt about not getting enough money from his 2 remaining, also grey-haired and barely-living siblings.
Next week he would’ve turned 64, but he has, finally, left this world today.
In his one-room home, he left behind a number of torn books, some worn out clothes on a coat hanger, a smelly old metal-framed bed and 17 cats.
He caused so much trouble to his family. Now, he will be buried miles away from where his mother and older siblings were buried. For some reason, they couldn’t find a place for him in the same cemetery.
I want to morbidly add “a fitting end”, but I hope he rests in peace wherever he lies.
One old friend of the family, and 2 nephews will pray for him as he goes back into the soil.
I can’t help but wonder about their feelings after carrying the burden which the older generation has passed upon them.
Are they relieved now?
Are they thinking about life and death?
Are they documenting some life lesson in their heads?
I feel great sadness for the remaining sister, and anger towards the remaining brother.
That one is not a burden.
But he’s not burdened.
And he should be.
He’s never though.
But I digress.
Death is never easy.
Even when it’s the passing of someone who is nothing but a troublesome burden to others.
When a burden is lifted off one’s back, it’s lighter, but there is an empty space in the burden’s place.
And our minds, don’t like empty spaces very much.
It’s easy to fill the void with darkness than to put the effort to decorate it.
I just pray that the garden-like soul of the sister, will find some comfort in the lighter weight, and feel some warmth from those around her.
As for me,
I hated him emotionally in light of what he did to those I hold dear. But as a complete stranger, I honestly would’ve loved to have a long talk with that old handsome angry man.