Unspoken Brother

We all have secrets, I suppose. Or maybe things that we just never talk about, not that we’re intentionally hiding them. One of these unspoken secrets occurred during my Winnipeg days, that I didn’t learn of until I was almost 50.

My father enjoyed getting the buzz on. There were times that he got so buzzed that he would be absent from the home for 2 or 3 days. The term ‘blacked out’ was used. As a child I took this to mean that a mysterious force descended from the sky, like a dark cloud, and erased his consciousness for a period of time, vaporized his memory. Clearly, as I know now, this is simply the state of consuming so much alcohol that you loose recollection of your actions. This state can be caused by many things; drugs, alcohol and other mind-altering activities. Sadly, much more common than we would hope for.

I remember, more than once, my father, begging forgiveness for a drunken binge, because he was blacked out. As if being blacked out was an excuse for despicable behavior. It was during one of these episodes that a half-brother was conceived. A brief tryst between my father and a friend of his sister. No doubt an innocent beginning, a party. A common enough thing.

Brent Fraser, born in 1959 to mother Lorraine and (so far) unrecorded father. But it was well known among friends and family who the father was.

I never knew this brother and only learned of him from a cousin, around 1990. First, of his existence and then years later of his terminal illness and death. He was 50 when he died of brain cancer in 2009. I was torn on whether to make contact with this person out of my father’s past. He was not a mistake, he was a life, shared blood. I learned that he had a difficult life. A single parent home, most likely. Poverty, alcoholism, by no means dissimilar to very many. I’m told he worked as a carny, a transient worker, living on the edge. Working the rides at Winnipeg Beach midway perhaps.

I’m told he looked like Engi, my invalid Uncle, so had the resemblance of our Icelandic side.

I imagine him thin and wasted, from years of hard living. He had friends, though, and he invited them to celebrate his life, once he was gone. At the Norwood Legion, close to the hospital where he lived his final days in palliative care. A brother, by another mother.

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