In the depths of Anita’s mind she did not find acceptance. Kevin had no right to sell their parents’ house without her knowledge. Who had taken care of their mother all those long months before she died? Who had made sure she had transportation to medical appointments and someone to bring in her meals and keep the house clean? Kevin lived next door to her mother. But he hadn’t lifted a finger to help when the time came. He hadn’t done a thing.
She’d only learned about the sale yesterday, but it had ruined her whole day. She was still fiercely bitterly angry about it. Kevin, her mother’s favorite. Kevin, who could do no wrong. All their lives she’d been playing second fiddle to the greatness of her brother Kevin.
It was not a matter of the money. She’d be getting a check for exactly half of the sale proceeds, and she’d welcome the money, yet. But it was so galling – she could not quite get over this, no, not at all – that Kevin was both so precise about the sale and so thoughtless – deliberately thoughtless – about the physical needs of their mother before she died.
No acceptance in the bottom of her mind. Anita’s thoughts went back to the oh-so-many times when, as a child, Kevin’s accomplishments were put before hers. He, the eldest, was celebrated for any small triumph he might have had. Making the Dean’s List at school. Taking AP calculus. Being on the golf team, for god’s sake. Golf! For a time her parents had fostered the idea, trumpeted it, really, that Kevin could go pro at golf. Look at Tiger Woods, they’d say. That’s where Kevin will be someday.
But the thing was, Kevin could not stick to a thing. Their parents’ enthusiastic approval seemed to make Kevin even more flighty, if such a thing were possible. Yes, he was good at golf, Anita had to admit. But as soon as he’d taken first in Intramural golf in his junior year of high school, and their parents began raving about how good he was, he’d seemed to lose interest. His golf clubs had still be sitting in the back closet of their mother’s spare room, gathering dust, at the time she died.
Yes, she’d arranged everything from afar. Could she help that she lived in Atlanta, while her parents’ home was back in Houston where she and her brother had grown up? She had an excellent job as a corporate attorney, and with her travel schedule for the firm she couldn’t be gallivanting home to Houston every time her mother needed a trip to the clinic or to go to Target for new underwear. Anita had hired people, good people, to do it. Once she realized Kevin wasn’t about to life a finger to help, that is.
She stared at the screen in her iPad where Kevin’s email was displayed. – House sold. A check for $____ for your half on the way, probably 2-3 weeks. Love.
Love. Kevin didn’t even bother to sign his name. He was all precision and calculations and no heart, no heart.
Anita was tempted to write a reply that would excoriate Kevin. Suddenly it had all boiled to the surface, the overlooked honors she’d had in school – Honor Society President, Glee Club Student of the Year. She was in the top 1% of her high school class academically, in the top 10% of her Yale Law class, for God’s sake. Then the rising star in her multinational corporate counsel position after law school. She brought down a very respectable salary, had traveled to every continent, including Antarctica. The only missing piece was someone to share it with. But then, Kevin did not have that either.
But a nasty email wold do no good. Hadn’t she already tried that, more than once, when their mother was dying? – Kevin, can’t you take mom to the clinic? – Kevin, can’t you meet the cleaning woman and let her in the house? Always the same response. No. Have things to do.
What things? What things did he have to do? As far as she could tell he never left the house, the little house next door to their mother’s house, which had been a rental while their father was alive, but that on his death, her mother had somehow arranged to move Kevin into after evicting the long-time tenants, the Johnsons. Anita did not know if Kevin paid their mother any rent, but it wouldn’t have surprised her if he lived rent-free, or at least at reduced-rent levels – and his email said nothing about a sale of that little house, the one he lived in. No doubt he planned to stay on there. Now their mother was gone, no doubt he planned to go on living there, possibly to the end of his days.
Well. Kevin was the executor of their mother’s estate – or the personal representative, as it was called these days. She had little recourse if the small house next door had been willed to him, did she? She had no idea if he had inherited it – he gave her no knowledge of the content of their mother’s will – but there was nothing she could do about it if he had.
She’d tried to get a rise from him by escalating her emotions in emails after he’d refused to help. Look, Kevin, you’re right there – why can’t you help Mom once in a while? she’d said. Or, don’t you love her? – she’d finally written in frustration. It was no use. To these emails, she’d only received a terse reply: – Can’t. Busy.
What was it about him? What made him so obtuse? She couldn’t understand it. There was no understanding it. And even if in the depths of her mind she found no acceptance, she was a thousand miles away. Her mother was gone now. Let him deal with it. Whatever came, let him deal with it.
Three weeks later Anita received notice from DHL of a package to be delivered. She’d have to sign for it. She was on the verge of leaving the country for London early the next morning, the morning of the delivery.
Ugh. This was the check from Kevin for the house. Of course he’d sent it signature-required. She’d had plenty of items delivered without the need for a signature, and it was not necessary to place the envelope in her hands, was it? Not in the secure luxury apartments she lived in. One more hassle, one more way for Kevin to make her life difficult.
Well, so be it. As soon as she took possession of the package – the check – she’d cut all ties. It would be the last time she’d have anything to do with him.
But she was wrong about that.
Anita postponed the delivery through the DHL website and left on her two-week business trip – which involved London, but also a stop in Northern Ireland and Scandinavia. On the way back she stayed an extra day in Iceland – the flight was cheaper that way on Icelandic Air, so she went sightseeing to the geysers and the cold icy ocean. The day she got back the package had already been delivered and she had a notice from the front desk of her building that she needed to pick it up.
She grudgingly went down to reception and asked for the package. It was surprisingly heavy, about 8″ x 10″ and a few inches high. Wrapped in brown paper, addressed to her.
This was not the flat-rate envelope she had expected. What on earth could it be?
Kevin’s return address in his small, crabbed handwriting, was on the front of the package. Her frustration surged.
Well, what the hell. She would take it upstairs, she would open it . . . perhaps he’d sent some mementos along with the check. Hard to imagine cold, unfeeling Kevin sending her momentos of their mother’s life. Besides, she knew the house and there was nothing in it she particularly wanted.
Irritation feathered her mind as she let herself into her apartment. She tossed the keys on the small etagier next to the front door, Frasier-style, and sat down on the couch. The brown paper opened easily and out dropped several thin blue-book-style notebooks, along with the check that he had said would be coming to her.
Were the books her mother’s? One glance at the handwriting inside told her they did not belong to her mother.
It was Kevin’s writing.
Kevin’s tiny, precise handwriting filled the pages of the slim journals. There were five, six of the books.
They were dated. The dates ranged from his high school years, in the book on the bottom of the stack, to the recent past, in the one on the top of the pile.
She leafed through them. Out dropped a note. It read:
“Anita, Do with these what you will. Love, K.”
Love, K.? He’d signed the note this time?
She flipped to the most recent entry, which was one week ago. Kevin’s writing was small, but the printing was terribly neat, and there was something spooky and a little sad about seeing his lines of closely-written prose.
It was late and it was starting to get dark when she finished scanning journal that held the most recent entries. Kevin’s mind was terribly organized, but it was also terribly impaired. His illness – which her mother had known about, but which was news to Anita – kept him a prisoner. Severe, crippling anxiety and acrophobia made him a prisoner in his own life.
Why had her mother kept this from her? Anita did not understand. Perhaps – in that generation – it was considered shameful to admit to having a child with mental illness. Anita had been such an overachiever, yes, but why had her mother not been willing to confide in her about Kevin’s condition?
It was something Anita would never know.
Kevin’s journal entries mentioned that he would pay rent to Anita now, the rent he’d paid to their mother when she was alive. The little house he lived in was Anita’s; her mother had left it to her after all. Kevin was on disability insurance from their mother’s estate, and he made some money from a part-time remote website design job he had gotten, work he had learned to do before graduating high school ten years before, and which apparently helped to pay his bills.
Nothing had suggested the true situation. How wrong she had been.
In Anita’s mind, there was acceptance. She was still troubled, angry with her mother for not having said something sooner, said something while she was still alive. But somehow Anita would keep the ties with Kevin. The ties she had never had as a child.
Anita folded the journals back into the brown wrapping paper and put them on an empty shelf in the living room. She’d have some work figuring out an appropriate email message to write.