He couldn’t have been cuter.
Cuteness wasn’t a strong suit in our family. He bucked that trend, though. He had blond hair, tanned skin, and the sunniest smile we’d ever seen. He was fun too, at least most of the time. He was the youngest of four, and was the only boy. My parents were overjoyed to finally have the son they wanted so much. His sisters knew that all too keenly.
He had some odd traits that became evident early in life. He would lie on the floor, at eye level with his small cars and trucks, and move them about for hours. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours. He wasn’t autistic, at least overtly, but this habit lasted a number of years, which seemed slightly strange. It was just “him”, though, and no one really thought much of it.
He was frighteningly intelligent. He didn’t wield his brainpower in typical ways – he sometimes struggled in school. He remembered stunning amounts of information, though, and picked things up very quickly. He was too fussy sometimes as well, which grated on our nerves. When asked what time it was he would check his large watch (for he always had much nicer and more expensive things than his sisters) and announce the time to the minute, instead of rounding it up or down, as most people do. He sometimes added the seconds too. We hated it.
“It’s not 7:56 and 43 seconds, it’s almost 8! Almost 8!!”, but he would just smile serenely at the onslaught of familial irritation.
He would come up behind us and massage our shoulders sometimes, as he got older. It was weird. Almost creepy. We felt guilty for thinking so. He was much less cute as he grew up, and he did grow up – as an adult he was a very big guy. Too big. Overweight, oafish, and a bit intimidating.
As his sisters moved on in life – marrying and starting families – he remained single and lived with our mother. Maybe we should have seen the signs. I don’t think any of us did. But, something was off. For several years he had been having trouble of various kinds, but our mother always defended and protected him – he was her favorite, of course. She blamed his issues on brain tumors, hereditary illnesses, and other scapegoats. He was tested, observed, tested some more, and sent home. Always sent home, with our mother continuing to excuse his behavior.
He took over her basement and set up his computer system the way he liked it. He was messy and disorganized. Hindsight provides 20/20 vision – we didn’t grasp the fact that our brother was living in his mother’s basement, with a good computer system and a serious insistence on privacy. How could we not have seen it?
He was active in various musical groups and worked at jobs here and there. He didn’t have a car, so he relied on bikes and city buses. One day he was arrested – he confessed to molesting a relative. We still weren’t fully understanding the severity of the issue, mostly because our mother downplayed the situation, to the point of not really talking about it at all. He did a short stint in jail and was soon back home. Our father tried to get him some help, but that went nowhere. Our mother wrapped herself in a thick swaddling of denial and defensiveness no one could penetrate. Attempts were made to get more information from him, to no avail. We were beside ourselves, not knowing what else could be done.
He started vanishing for periods of time, still riding city buses or occasionally borrowing my mother’s car. We didn’t know where he went – we still don’t. But, we now know what he was doing. Exhibition. He was flashing children, and possibly worse. His bulk and intimidating air surely worked to his advantage – we fear he went so much farther than “just” flashing. No child would have stood a chance. We were beside ourselves, but had no proof.
He was again arrested. They came to the house and caught him in the act of viewing child porn on his computer. They took him away and confiscated all his electronics. One night, at home with my family, a story about sex offenders was aired, along with large pictures of several individuals arrested for those heinous crimes. His picture was there, suddenly, and my blood ran cold. He was on t.v. for everyone to see. My brother. My youngest sibling’s picture, included with other repulsive offenders. It was painful and humiliating in the extreme.
He toyed with prison psychiatrists – he enjoyed trying to beat the system and anyone who attempted to help him. He was beaten up twice, quite badly, apparently, and was moved from one location to another, for his safety. We didn’t know where he was – we weren’t told. We finally found him in a prison several states away – one specifically for offenders like him. We tried to figure out if we could force him to get help. We hated him, we puzzled over him, and we grieved for the victims of his despicable crimes.
We had to communicate once, during a legal situation involving our mother’s care, and we saw a bit of slight humor in a short note he sent to the court. He was still “him”, somehow, but he was also an irrevocably damaged individual who seemed beyond any understanding. He had done things we were frantic to fix, somehow. We knew we could not, but we were desperate to find his victims, no matter the level of offense against them, and apologize on his behalf. We wanted to help them find peace – any fraction of peace and serenity – after being confronted by such a depraved person. We’ve never found any of them.
We wondered how long he would last in prison. Would another inmate sink a shank in him? Would he ever accept psychological help? Could he stop mocking the system and using his intelligence to outwit anyone who tried to evaluate him? I found his journal, as I cleaned out his living space in my mother’s house – only once did he refer to his crimes, saying that he planned to “indulge” himself that weekend, meaning he was going to do whatever it was that he did to children.
He regarded it as a pleasant, maybe happy, hedonistic pastime. The anger and shame I felt will never leave me.
He died in prison. We still don’t know why. The death certificate refers to an innocuous end. We still wonder. He wasn’t healthy, but the circumstances were odd. Maybe it doesn’t matter. He can’t hurt anyone any more. He cannot take a child’s innocence and destroy it in one self-indulgent, disgusting act. We don’t have to spend hours upon hours desperately trying to figure out a way to keep him away from society and locked up where he belonged. We needn’t worry about the catastrophic damage he seemed to enjoy causing.
It has taken years to get to the point where I can talk about him. I needed to hide my connection to him and not feel guilty by association. Our family was shamed by his actions and held hostage by a wall of silence surrounding his life. We’ve moved on, for the most part, but the pain will never leave us. How does one go about reconciling the person we grew up with and the individual who caused grievous harm? Maybe we can’t, and shouldn’t.
His story is more complex than all this – we gained more information toward the end of his life, although we’ll never have all the pieces of the puzzle. We’ll never know the true number of victims, and we’ll never be able to grasp the extent of the damage he caused. Not every story has a happy ending. The best we can do is learn and grow from terrible experiences, and hope others can do so as well. For, in the end, no matter how much I wish differently, he really was a pedophile, my brother.