A year ago my brother died.
He was five years older than me and emigrated to Canada more than forty years ago. After many years he left Canada to teach English in a Chinese school. He was made very welcome by the Chinese, finding them most hospitable and generous. Sadly, the climate disagreed with him and he developed health problems from which he never really recovered, so he returned to British Columbia, much to the relief of his daughter.
There was rarely any communication from him. My parents said little on this subject. When he did write letters they were like long essays, with nothing personal in them.
My father died and then my sister and he didn’t come back for their funerals. He returned later to spend a year at my mother’s home but didn’t maintain close contact with her after he left for Canada again. He was her only son and although she and my father repeatedly said that he had ‘always been odd’ I think she was probably hurt by his apparent indifference. I don’t believe she thought it was deliberate – more that he lived in another world inside his head.
Eventually, my mother died and once again he couldn’t afford to return to England, until he learnt that there was a legacy from her which gave him the wherewithal to travel. So, he came back for her funeral, staying with us and then going to Norfolk to spend time with my late sister’s family.
At this time we discovered just how ‘odd’ he had become, believing that the world had been invaded by space aliens. He was not delusional – at least, not certifiably. He was just a gentle, quite passive, undemanding man who had probably spent too much time on his own and been persuaded by plausible writers of implausible things.
When my niece phoned to tell me he had died in his sleep I felt nothing apart from deep sadness for her. I hadn’t known him for many, many years and it was like hearing of the death of a slight acquaintance. I have never shed a tear over his passing and never will. I suppose I am angry with him for his lack of consideration for my parents. They deserved better.