Forever relegated to the role of the elder and more responsible child, I delivered almost every sibling disaster headline to my mother. My younger brother Mick fucked up again, managed to get arrested for possession and distribution, and found himself sitting in a jail cell for the first time. “It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, Mel!” my mother shouted when I broke the news.
However, the camel is my mother, and my mother’s back is strong.
My mother called me back for the fourth time in under two hours, quizzing me, “Is there anything else, Mel? Are you sure that’s all there is to it?” So, I carefully reviewed with her the details of our previous three phone calls. My mother said she didn’t want to forget the little things; she feared, or hoped, she might have heard me wrong the first time. But she didn’t hear me wrong; rather, her ears resisted the weight of my message.
My mother helped her children whenever she could, always offering us encouragement and support. But, unlike the baby camel who walks on its own immediately after birth, my brother could never move forward on his own. And so, my mother carried my little brother Mick on her back for almost fourteen years.
But my mother is a camel, and she can carry almost nine hundred pounds.
For my part, I developed into a (mostly) strong and independent adult. And so, my mother, believing she did an adequate job with me, continued focusing her attention on Mick. But, no matter how hard my mother wished or prayed, Mick struggled to find his footing. So, inevitably, my mother will set out to save Mick’s ass once again.
I sat by the phone and awaited my mother’s fifth call of the day. She will want me to check her accounts, ensuring she has enough money for a lawyer or possible bail for Mick. I will try and make my mother understand the severity of what has happened, but she is already on a mission to save my brother. She will ignore the impossibility of his situation, unable or unwilling to hear or see the barriers that impede her way forward.
You see, my mother is a camel, and she will travel one hundred miles through a desert to save her son.
I wanted to tell my mother I am angry with her for always rescuing Mick. And, I resented the fact that my brother kept taking, giving our mother nothing back in return but grief. I wanted my mother to leave my brother in his cell and teach him a lesson. I needed her to understand she was partly to blame for my brother’s inability to stand on his own. But, of course, I won’t say this to my mother; she wouldn’t listen even if I did. So, I finally picked up the ringing phone and said, “Hello, Mom.”
“Why haven’t you answered, Mel? I have been trying to reach you. And you know we have so much to do!” my mother began. And then, instead of convincing her to let my brother figure it out himself, I listened, wrote down her instructions, and started the process of saving Mick.
And all the while, I remembered, my mother is a two-humped camel, and she still has one hump left for me.