by Thea Atkinson
I grew up in a house with 3 brothers: one who put snakes in my boots; one who stole the money from my piggybanks: all of them, even the one I hid behind my closet door; and one who continually tried to peel my fingernails from the nailbeds.
I love each one of them, and all for those same reasons mentioned.
My brothers, like many brothers the world over, tormented the living daylights out of me, their only sister. They made me play goalie in the winter so often I never learned to skate. They forced me to run bases when I didn’t want to by firing an orange hockey ball at me until I darted around at their bidding afraid of the sting those balls delivered. Those brothers of mine threw ski poles at me, hit me over the head with a glass liquor bottle ala cartoon barfights, they Indian burned my arms absolutely raw.
And they would absolutely all die for me, each one–or at the very least beat the snot out of a bully.
So when one of them began to suffer the torments of addiction and relapse, it was inevitable that it would affect me to my core. We in the family all held our collective breaths, working at loving the person and not the behaviour. We went through all of the sickness of enabling and co-dependency and all those other terribly guilt-ridden symptoms of being the healthy family members of a very sick person.
It was this particular brother who I’ve seen give away his last bit of money to someone who needed it. I’ve seen him sit with my months’ old daughter for hours trying to calm her during a colick spell. He tells a joke like noboby’s business and if you’re perched awkwardly at at party with no one to talk to, he is the one who will spend his time with you and pull you into the crowd.
He genuinely likes people: a strange thing in my family of introverts. I think people get this about him and they respond. He has never lost that, even when he was struggling with the worst of his crisis.
It wasn’t until he started coming through the tunnel that I was able to breathe again–and breathing for me meant writing.
Secret language of Crows doesn’t sell well–it’s my fault, really. It’s so close to my heart that I don’t market it much–if at all. It doesn’t detail my brother or my family’s crisis, (That would be highly disrespectful of the people I hold most dear) but it does explore my own sense of helplessness and guilt in ways that you can only do in fiction.
Metaphorically, it lets me beat myself up and come out clean on the other end.
There’s a lot of symbolism in there that may only mean something to me, as it’s an intensely personal novel, but I think you may just find your own intimacy in there. You might transpose your own personal truth–isn’t that what symbolism does, after all?
You see, in my own way, I died for this brother–or rather, I took on the bully for him.
And I’m quite satisfied for both our sakes that it’s not coming back.
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If you’re interested in seeing the final evolution of a journey to forgiveness, you can click over to any of the places it’s for sale: The two biggest are: