I’m not supposed to talk about my brother. No ranting about him to my husband. No skewering him with my friends. Especially no writing about him in public. Most of you didn’t even know I had a brother, did you? That’s how well I’ve followed an old directive.

Well. Screw that. Here’s to making up for lost time.

My brother is four years younger than me. In pictures, he’s a forty-ish version of our father. Photos tell the story of what he looks like these days. MTM has probably seen my brother five times in the twelve years we’ve been together. It’s been more than five years since I’ve seen my brother in person.

Our last encounter was around the dinner table when Mom organized another installment of “Fucked Up Fantasy Family.”

You know FUFF, right? Where everyone gets together and tries to act normal, only certain people don’t speak or make eye contact, while others use the appetizer course to loudly proclaim, “We don’t like you, and we don’t like where you live.” One or two people make oblivious small talk while the remaining victims saw into their food and send “I hope you choke on it” vibes to someone else at the table. Laughter is strange, strained and shrill, and silence crawls along the skin and digs under fingernails.

In some families, maybe people shout and come to blows, but that’s never been my experience with FUFF. We’re civilized when we carve into each other.

The filaments of decisions build the molecular structure of our lives. In our twenties, we seldom understand how two simple words – I do – can impact the cells that prosper and the ones that die. Or how a few cells can mutate and become a Cancer, one that grows to feed on everything it encounters in its bitter, hateful path. I gave up on radiation, on chemotherapy, on the whole medical establishment, long ago, and I left the Cancer to wreak its havoc.

Because Cancer doesn’t share, I wrote off my relationship with my brother.

I still haven’t seen him since the Cancer left and took his family with it. He’s grieving, because Cancers are part of us. It hurts to divorce them. There’s a bloody hole where the Cancer was. In time, healthy cells may crowd in to fill it, but that’s not how it seems at the beginning. In the early days, a void is a void is a void.

I hope to be part of filling that void, because the Cancer left.

Dear Reader, have you been through the agony of divorce? If you have, please leave some kind words for my brother today. Think of him in the coming days and weeks. Send him strength whenever you think of me.