I have often wondered if my brother had seen my dad's face that night if it would have changed his life. I know it changed mine.
As father sat on the edge of my bed, face swollen from the tears he had obviously shed hours before he disturbed my slumber; he could only mutter the words "Where is he? Do you know where he is?". I honestly had no clue. Brother had made sure of it. I would have told and he knew it.
We sat and cried. Just dad and I in that lonely room. All quiet.
The man who led his family tall and strong seemed a little smaller as his drooping shoulders left my room. I don't know if my dad ever got a wink of sleep that night. I finally drifted off, certain that brother might just be at a friend's house. Phone call after phone call was made the next morning. No one knew anything.
I'm not sure how or when, but brother called eventually letting us know that he was okay, but not coming back. No one from the school had called so mom knew he was at least attending school still.
Did she sit up late each night and wait? I think I would. All I do know is that there was a dark, heavy feeling in our home for a while. Suspicion was more prevalent than ever and tears flowed at the drop of a hat. We weren't whole. A member was missing and we could feel it, though it was seldom said.
One day while doing laundry and cleaning out brother's things, mom found an address. Brother must have scratched it on a piece of paper for his records or something. Mom knew it. Like moms have the power to do - just know. And she did. He had been found. She knew where he was.
The relationship began to mend, I guess. I was busy, mom and dad were busy with life and the two younger ones, brother was busy, and we eventually got on with life, as one does. I was still going to school and had soon gotten my first real job outside of babysitting. I was the girl behind the counter at the corner Steak and Shake . It was a rude awakening to a world of reality I had only danced around before. Here, I was engaged in its waltz. Friends, coworkers, bosses and paychecks - I still ponder the logic behind throwing a seventeen-year-old into the world of adulthood of paying bills and juggling school and job. Though it did prepare me for college and the rest of my life, isn't the "rest of my life" extremely long compared to those carefree days of youth? Some days I wish it would have lasted longer. But I'm not sorry I learned to stand on my own two feet.
It was the summer before my senior year of high school. Brother was still gone. He'd sometimes call and get me up-to-date with his happenings, but this time he called to ask me something.
"Come with me, Shel", he said. "I'm going to be an actor, I may have a modeling job lined up, something to pay the bills, and you can do it too. We'll work together, and make it big."
I loved my brother. I loved the way he always protected me. He stood up for me so many times in our lives. He charmed me into doing just about anything for him his whole life.
"Go with you?", I asked. "Where?"
"Florida. I've got big plans!"
I was stunned.