"I have a brother
A brother like no other.
He got soul soul soul
... sweet soul."
U2 - The First Time
In the middle of 1980, a grainy black and white ultrasound picture was stuck on our fridge. I was eight, my sisters were eleven. Our mother had remarried to David, my stepdad (who we were bluntly told to call "dad" from now on, please) ... he hated being called Dave. Funny that I married a guy with that same name ... who hates being called "David". Everybody must call him Dave.
So, I was getting a new sibling. SO exciting. On the day of the birth, my beloved grandmother came to school to tell my sisters and I that mum had the baby, and whether it was a boy or a girl. It was lunchtime, but I was nowhere to be found. My sisters were so annoyed, but Nan stayed true and did not tell us until we were all together. They eventually found me on detention, sitting bored in my classroom. I was so happy that Nan had waited until I was found until she told us all, like I was important or something. It's the simple things.
It was a boy! "His name is Cameron!" She proudly told us. I loved that name, and could hardly wait to see him.
Our stepdad drove us down to meet him. I remember he had bought a ring for mum - he said it was an eternity ring, but I misheard and thought he said "maternity" ring. It was years before I found out there was no such thing.
For the first time in my life, I fell utterly in love. I remember the feeling, so strong and distinct. I like to believe that he felt my love too ... I swear he gave me his first smile ever when I held him in the hospital room:
(Apparently my hair is channeling Ricky Schroeder in Little Lord Fauntleroy. "Oh, dem golden slipperrrrs ...)
Finally, there was somebody in the family who didn't hate me! (I copped the brunt of terrible hatred and a lot of violence in my family, when I was growing up. It was pretty bad.)
Cam was this beautiful, blonde-haired little guy. He brought joy and light to all of us. I loved him so fiercely ... I was his biggest advocate, his best mate. Sometimes, late at night, we would all be out in the backyard, swimming in the pool. I would freak out, having just watched a documentary on the Lindbergh kidnapping ... in a panic I kept running inside, sure that Cam had been taken away. I would run up to his cot to make sure he was still there ... even run around to the outside of his second storey window, expecting to see a long ladder propped up against it.
I couldn't wait to get home from school .... fleeing myself on him, always saying the same thing: "Howz-a-ma-boy??" Covering him with kisses and love. I taught him how to write his name, pushed him up to the shops in his pram, stopping to phone mum from the phonebox so he could say "hello." (She loved it. He was her absolute favourite child - I didn't care, he was my favourite too.)
The poor guy though ... he had four mothers, I remember mum shouting to us a lot "Stop smacking him!" ... but only when he was naughty.
Once he was asleep in his car seat ... I wondered if he could still breathe if I held his mouth AND nose. He couldn't, and awoke with a start. (Sorry, champ!) I would save up my pocket money and buy him toys, tried to give him everything I had to keep him happy.
When he was eight, we moved to England. It's such a long, tired story ... but we ended up coming back to Australia, broke, living in a caravan at the front of my nans house.
And then, one day, my stepdad - Camerons dad - bought a hosepipe from the hardware shop, drove to a secluded spot, and gassed himself in the car. Dead. Finito.
That was the one defining moment in my childhood ... the day I was no longer a child, ever again. The grief, for me, was huge. Mine and my sisters real dad had died four years previously, from alcoholism. Our stepdad comforted us then, at the funeral. And now we had another funeral. A policeman came to our door, the morning after he had been missing all night. Cam was at school ... I vividly remember feeling excited about it all. Of course, he would be found alive and everything would be ok.
The policeman didn't have a hat or tie on, and I read somewhere that if a cop is giving bad news, they must be in full uniform. SO, I relaxed when I saw him. Phew!
Wrong. My dad, my stepdad David who I had know for eleven years, was dead. The grief was just terrible - I knew we had a shit family, but damn it was the only family I knew. My very first thought was my brother, sitting at school, oblivious.
Mum decided to tell him his dad died in a car accident. Months later we were watching "Cocktail" and when Brian Brown's character killed himself, mum turned to Cam, and with a few too many wines in her, told him that that was what his father did.
I was in the other room and came running, thinking that she must have been hitting him, so loud was he shouting.
My poor Cambo. I was Pebbles to his Bam-Bam. I took him for a walk, to a toyshop, the day after dad was found. I remember walking, confused at all the cars whizzing past. The world was carrying on regardless? How could this be? I told Cam he could pick any toy in the shop - ANY toy. He looked around, listless and numb. I felt the same.
After the funeral, my sisters and I weren't allowed to go to the cremation. I was so upset about that .. mum said only she and Cam would go. We were just the stepchildren. I wanted to go so much ... we used to have two dads, and now we had none. WTF?
One of the biggest regrets of my life is leaving my brother living at home with mum, when I moved to Sydney at the age of 18. I started getting up to mischief, and Cam was left to grow up alone. I'm so sorry about that. Mum re-married, but it was never the same. I would see Cam at family functions, always kiss and hug him, tell him I loved him - wishing I could take away all of his pain.
Cam has his own life to live and his own demons to slay. He's 29 - at the moment, he's over in the northern part of England, recently he sent me a big fat long email detailing his adventures. I told him to come back to Australia and live with me and be my nanny in lieu of rent, STAT.
The last time I saw Cam was a year ago, Rocco was three weeks old and Dave had just started his chemotherapy. What a fricken happy family we were then. Cam came up to visit before he went overseas, and just sat on the lounge watching TV with us all day. Dave was too sick to do anything, and I was too fucked up.
Before he left, I leant over to him and said: "Cam .... if anything *cough* bad happens, I need you to come back and be there *cough* for my boys, ok?"
Basically if I were to be a widow I needed my brother to help my sons out, because my brother is unfortunately an expert in being a male and growing up with no father.
But I'm not a widow! Cam is still overseas .... I still miss him a lot, and pray that he is ok and safe. Look how hot he is:
Is it odd to call your brother hot? Well, he is .... and he is also SINGLE. Heh. Cam is the smartest guy ever ... with a cutthroat sense of humour. He knows a lot of stuff, gets frustrated with the world, is waaaay taller than me (and I'm tall.)
I love you Camel Cam. One day you'll have kids crawling all over you, a beautiful wife, and you'll be stressed but happy.
Annoying sidenote: I plan to write a nice story about my brother, and end up detailing dads suicide. It's frustrating, this big turbulent childhood of ours. So big, and hard to contain. That death was a puncture, blowing us all open and out of the water, and defining us for many many years to come. Maybe it still does. Meh. I'm off to eat my lunch dessert.