Magical Thinking

115451191My Mum always said that everything happens for a reason. But she also said that God helps those who help themselves. And things would get better when her boat comes in.

Somewhere in that magical thinking was a clue as to why things happened. If things happened for a reason, I looked to find a connection. If God helps those who help themselves, I constantly searched for ways to help my Mum. And though I prayed for it, her boat never did come in. In the end, I believed that it was all down to me. Things happened because of me.

When Mum told me that my little foster brother would have to leave forever, I wondered if I had done something terribly wrong. After all, he was only four years old and we had been together since he was a newborn baby. He slept in my room and we played Lego together, always making a pirate ship that would sail away to far-off places in search of buried treasure.

We packed his meager things in two plastic bags. There wasn’t much. His Puff the Magic Dragon record, the Lego and his Sippy cup. And beside the two plastic bags was Little Bear. My brother liked to take care of that worn out teddy, the way four year olds do.

He wouldn’t eat his oatmeal for breakfast that morning. Wouldn’t drink his milk. He knew that something was wrong when we folded up his blankets on his tiny bed for the last time. And we hugged him so much more than usual on that dark morning.

Mum said I was not to cry when they came for him. She said it would upset him to see his older brother cry and he wouldn’t understand. So I held it in as long as I could. So did my Mum.

He screamed when they pulled him out of my Mum’s arms and he screamed all the way down the pathway to the waiting car. But I couldn’t hear him scream after they closed the car door. All I could see was his tiny face, pressed against the window in desperate agony.

I knew I had to have done something wrong, something that made it so that everyone around me would leave. My Dad, my Nana, my brother, all gone. Everything happens for a reason and I was the reason. I had done something very, very wrong.

I held the tears in until I could hide under the blanket in my bed that night. And I pressed my hands over my ears so that I couldn’t hear my mother sobbing in the next room.

I know now that some things do happen because I make them happen. But I cannot change things that are outside of my control. I also realize that believing that things only happen because of me is an emotional reasoning that has nothing to do with reality.

And thirty years later, when I met the man who once was my little brother, he still loved me.


  1. To be able to write such a story, one has to haved lived through something alike. Maybe this is biographical, or maybe not, but the last sentence says enough. Love is a place.

  2. John, Just when I thought your posts couldn’t any better, I read this one and this tops them all. Very, very moving and the last sentence so poignant!! Beautiful! But I am so sorry you blamed yourself for all those horrid things that happened.

    • You are very kind, Ellen. I hope you have a good year (and life!). I’m hoping that I will finally get published this year. John

      • Wishing you and your family the very best for 2013 and I, too, hope that your book will be published this year!!! I just know it will be a huge success when it comes out and hope that it is. You certainly deserve that and more!

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