OLDER SISTER

Today my younger brother Bryan asked me for some old photo albums to look at. Whenever my brother asks me for a photo album I stop what I am doing and go and fetch him one, because he will rarely look at photos of our mother. I want to tell Bryan that our mother's death was not his fault. He still does not believe this twenty-five years later. There is so much I want to relieve Bryan of; I want to take his burdens from him; I want to take the sorrow out of his hazel eyes; the smoke from his lungs as he chain smokes; the arch out of his tired back as he continues to blame himself for so much. When Bryan asks for a photo album, I know that he is open to looking at an eternal wound he carries within him He asks to peek inside. He asks to peek inside the photo album where photos of our mother and grandmother are. This is the only place they are for him, otherwise he has them locked up in a dark closet that he is unwilling to look into - so much time has gone by and grown wild inside of him like the tumbleweeds outside his desert front door.

Bryan sinks into my paisley couch here by the sea, pulling the 6" thick old handmade photo album to one side of his stomach where a foot long gash in his belly crawls sideways up his torso where he's had a great portion of his intestines removed he's always trying to remove a great portion of his anxiety through surgery. My brother is 5'10" and a square 200 lbs. He wears the same wire-rimmed glasses as our mother and he squints over the photo album that is opened wide upon his lap. He squints as if the photos were a bright sun blinding him. His arched gaze kneels unmoving like a cougar in a bush as his eyes brush over the small 2 x 3 black and white photos of our Mother, our grandmother and other relatives in the album. His hands hold the book as steady as an ancient bible, his fingers rest on the green acidic page of the photo album. I watch as his eyes rest on a photo of our Grandmother: Nita Gottlieb. Below the photo is a date: 1928. I admit itŐs an unusual photo. She was young and angelic, floating in a white chiffon dress that draped down just below her knees. Her hair was wavy and hanging down untied and loose, down to her shoulders as she stood on the sidewalk on a steep hill in San Francisco. Usually photos of our grandmother have her hair tied up in a bun, her face stiff from raising two children on her own, her hands clasped tightly as she's walking home from working from a factory filled with lye.

Bryan sits on the couch hunched over the photo album as the day ends. His face is alight with streaks of sun that hit the hardwood floor, running across his work boots and jeans. The white wall behind my brother is the home for a black and white photo of my two children standing in the stairwell at Ft. Point San Francisco. My brother looks ancient with his salt and pepper hair under the weight of all of these photos; under the weight of this knarled photo album; under the weight of the spell that is cast every time we bring out 100 years of photos. I feel exhausted and uneasy as I hold onto the rope that binds my brother and I; a very real tie. I hold on with all my might because I feel my brother sinking like an anchor shifting heavily in a thick sea, as the shadows of the day grow steadily darker in the unlit room. I pluck the photo of our grandmother from the page of the photo album and hand it to my brother. There is so much I want to tell my brother. I am his older sister, after all.