Gelukkige verjaarsdag, George... waar ookal jy is.
Today is my brother's birthday. George Michael van der Merwe... the forgotten one... the one who got the least attention... the one who became the black sheep of the family, but was actually the gentlest and kindest. I got to know him so late.
George was the last of my mom's kids. The man who fathered us left before he was born, so George never did get to see him. He has always suffered over that. I remember telling him that the man wasn't worth it and the young teenager yelled back that at least I had the chance to decide that for myself. I was taken away from my mom at the age of 3. Hamish lived half between my gran's place and my mom's. My sister had all my mom's attention. George just had to muddle along as best he could... and best was rather hard for him. I remember his first grade report, "George keeps making funny noises in class." Ever the one calling for attention. The family thought the report card was amusing. Over the years, he found ways to get attention... few of them good. He was always up to some mischief or another. I just used to hear the tales. I never got to see him.
In 1982, I was sent to boarding school. No one told me I'd find my brother there. No one told me we would bond. No one warned me that I would miss him so much. The following year, I was sent to a different boarding school. George was the one thing from the old school I missed desperately. We wrote to each other regularly. I teased him that he had to become a doctor because his handwriting was so hard to read. After I got married, we got together again. It was during his obligatory tour with the army. He came to stay with Jorge and I for a while. That was good. One morning, when I was cleaning, I found a photo in among his things. I hated the photo and didn't want it, but I flew off the handle, accusing him of theft. I know why he took it. It was the only photo we had of our father. Eventually, Jorge took him back to the army base. I didn't see him again. I was so petty. I lost my brother over something so stupid. If only I could find him to tell him I'm sorry.
Family is precious. Relationships are precious. Why did I learn too late that words spoken can't be taken back? I wanted to post this as a private post, as it is of little interest to anyone but myself and, possibly, my brother, but I have decided to leave it public. Maybe... just maybe... he is looking too...
In the photo, I am the one on the tricycle. Next to me is my sister... a little less than a year younger than me. Then George, the youngest, sitting next to my mother. In the background is Jim's work van. Photo taken on Christmas day, 1971.