Once upon a time I had a brother. Being my senior by a mere
15 months we grew up together as virtual twins. In fact,
many people thought we were. In the early years we were
pushed around in a twin pushchair, and for many years
we were dressed the same. I never could understand the
confusion though, for in looks, as in personality, we
were as alike as chalk and cheese. It’s strange how others
see you isn’t it? I guess people don’t really look.
Terence was his full name, although he was always referred
to as Terry. Looking back I suppose it would be appropriate
to call him Terry the Terrier. He was possessed of a
restlessness that prompted him to keep moving. As a boy he
would often play on his own. Wrapped up in an imaginary world
I was never privy to, he would act out a highly animated
fantasy, leaping around, arms flailing, as if fighting off
demons. That’s how it seemed to me anyway. He called them his
‘actions’. That’s all I ever knew about them. As his life
progressed, I couldn’t help but make a connection between these
actions and other significant events.
Terry would probably have been around 10 years old when we
first became aware of his ‘anti-social’ tendencies. From
nowhere came the revelation he had been caught pilfering –
stealing from cars. This came as a shock to myself and my
parents. Although we were working class my father was highly
paid by the standards of the day. We were well fed, and well
shod. Why would he want to do such a thing? Such was the
simplistic thinking of the times.
As Terry moved into adolescence and beyond, it became
apparent to me, if not my parents, he was ‘operating’
on a level different to myself, and indeed, anyone else
I knew. He was possessed of an undercurrent of agitation.
This manifested itself in the form of violence. He fought
frequently. I was witness to many of these occasions, and
I have to say, he was usually the instigator, and, more often
than not, the victor. Not being inordinately large in size,
he had the advantage of being an amateur boxer. With
encouragement from my father, he’d spent much of his schoolboy
days training at a local gym. But instead of channeling
his restless energy, it served to provide him with a weapon.
The story continues. In his late teens he was arrested and
charged with burglary. With a workfellow, he’d broken into
a series of houses. Nothing of value was stolen – as if he
did it out of devilment. Luckily, he was only fined. During
this time, he was in the habit of disappearing to London. He
travelled alone. To this day no one knows what his business
The inevitable happened. Like everyone else within his
immediate circle, Terry finally got married. To some extent,
the extra responsibility calmed him down, although he had his moments. He seemed content in his role as husband and provider. But life is never that simple. In
his mid-twenties he had a breakdown, diagnosed as paranoid
schizophrenic. My thoughts turned immediately to that young
boy, all those years ago, agitatedly working out his fantasies.
The ensuing years featured divorce, self-mutilation, and I’ve
no doubt, nightmares of a kind I could never imagine. There
was a constant procession of treatments and hospitals. A roller
coaster ride on the sanity/insanity spectrum until, well
into his forties, he reached an equilibrium. A combination of
medication and living conditions seemed to provide him with
the stability he required. For the first time since his
mid-twenties, he was able to function as an independent agent.
He looked good. Welcome back Terry.
Ten years ago this month, I received a telephone call from
Terry’s ex-wife. He’d been struck down by a cerebral
haemorrhage. He was forty seven years old. He was in a coma.
For two weeks, various members of the family kept vigil by his
bedside in intensive care. He never came round. Pneumonia
finally finished him off.
That’s his life in a nutshell. No humour you say? Oh yes there was.
Terry was the owner of a weird and wonderful imagination
which he often shared with others. As daft as they come.
Kind and generous too. I often catch myself muttering one
of his sayings or phrases, and it’s as if he’s still here
inside me. I miss him.