I Know Where I’ve Been

FIRST PLACE, Grads 7-9 Division 2004

Grade 9, Bell Multicultural Sr. High

On August 7th, a Monday evening, our brotherly routine of playing video games begins. This time it is Zelda, the hero who collects objects for a journey to battle the big monster. Fidel, my younger brother, from the waist up, is chubby, a regular kid who loves video games. But his legs stick out from under his shorts like shriveled branches choked off from water.

“Are you hungry?” I ask. “What do you want? Pizza?” Besides making food, I changed Fidel’s clothes, diapers, and gave him bathes. Cutting the pizza into slices, I then cut Fidel’s into smaller bite sized pieces.

Soon mom came home. Flopping on the bed next to us, she let the day of house cleaning go. She soon fell asleep; my younger brother followed. With Fidel’s snoring, mom woke up to give him his medicine. He returned to snoring, which helped me fall asleep. In-out, in-out, in-out…then nothing. Until words I can never erase came screaming from my mother. Words that continue to echo and haunt me. “Fidel is dead!”

Both legs were cold and no breath came from his mouth. All being in one bed, in our one room apartment, we noticed even the slightest change. His head was sideways, eyes closed. Peaceful. The wheelchair was still folded up by the door. I cried.

Unfortunately, there was not a heart of Zelda to restore his health from his battle with Myelomeningocele Spina Bifida. He was one month away from his eighth “shunting” surgery to relieve the Hydrocephalus, a fluid in his brain. He didn’t tell us his head hurt this time.

You don’t know where you’re going, unless you know where you’ve been. I can’t erase the past. That would be like erasing my brother. At first I was angry and mad, maybe guilty, wishing it were I. I treated others poorly, didn’t want to talk, feeling myself change with the intents of evil. I wanted to give up, failing in school, until on a Black Diamond slope at White Tail with the Burton Chill program. I still want to put my hood over my face and hide, but this time strapped to bindings on a snowboard patterned with clouds, I felt different. This time I didn’t give up. My confidence wasn’t broken. Going through the mogul park, I felt like Mario of the video games with the Super Leaf, free, off the ground. But we always land.

My journey isn’t over yet, the pain is still there, but for at least a few hours a week snowboarding I felt like it was okay to be happy, okay to feel that I was allowed to live instead of or without my brother. Okay to know that I could snowboard with perfectly healthy legs and not feel guilty. I’m not proud of this story, it’s not happy. But I draw on my brother’s courage not to give up. What is my future? I don’t know where I’m going really, but at least I know where I’ve been.