Missing, but Not Forgotten

Missing, but Not Forgotten

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

Missing, but Not Forgotten

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Mal. 2:10

I last saw my brother Mikey in 1989. I last talked to him in 1999. I do not know where he is, what he is doing or why he has chosen to disappear.

Mikey was born on my younger sister Tina’s sixth birthday, a week before my seventh birthday. He was what my mother referred to as “a later-in-life surprise.” When she brought him home from the hospital, I put away my dolls, and he became my doll. I all but raised him until the day I left for college. I bathed, dressed, changed and fed him. I played with him and put him to bed. I read to him, sang to him and prayed with him. I was his only babysitter. When he was older, I took him to and from school, helped him with his homework and helped him practice the piano.

We four older children were born within one year of each other, leaving home one after another, leaving our baby brother alone with our parents for several years. Having no one left to play with, he began to make up imaginary friends, which later evolved into an entire imaginary life.

Because he was eventually the only child at home, my father put him to work in his business. He married a sweet girl straight out of high school and they had two children together. My father helped them buy a home. And they began to live what appeared to be a charmed life.

Carelessness on his part led to divorce. When his wife remarried, he foolishly allowed her new husband to adopt his children. I have not seen them since they were babies. They are adults now, probably with babies of their own and probably with no idea that they have a whole other family elsewhere that has never forgotten them and longs to see them.

My brother remarried.

He was still working for my father at the time, but not performing up to par. My father called and asked my advice. I asked what he would do if Mikey were an employee.

“I’d fire him,” he answered.

“Then, you have to fire him,” I advised.

Little did I know the eventual effect of that advice.

My brother did not work again for many years.

His wife eventually joined the service, and they moved from base to base.

In 1986, he came home for my father’s funeral. My mother sent him to the airport to retrieve me. He had his wife waiting in full dress uniform with a sign, much to both my and her embarrassment. On the drive home, he regaled us with tales about the Mafia providing the limousines for Father’s funeral because Father had done so much business with them over the years. My father never knew, let alone worked with, the Mafia, but I let it pass, knowing his childhood imagination was still at work.

In 1989, he came home for Mother’s estate auction, claiming he had been sent by the service to see what he could secure for the government, his imaginary life still in full swing.

I went home for the estate auction, too, taking with me my then teenaged son. Mikey kept my son up late one night regaling him with tales of service as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war, much to my son’s delight. Later, when my son began to repeat the stories to me, I stopped him and confronted my brother.

“Why do you tell such stories?” I demanded. He threatened to kill me. I have never seen him since.

Later I received a call from the LDS missionaries serving on the base where my brother was living. They had taught Mikey the gospel and were preparing to baptize him. Rather than being overjoyed, I was hesitant, questioning my brother’s intent. I was afraid he was joining the Church only to make himself more acceptable to our predominantly LDS family. The missionaries assured me that his intent was pure. I rejoiced at the good news.

While his wife worked hard in the service, Mikey sat home in base housing watching TV. She eventually divorced him.

The next thing I knew, he was working in a factory. A vat fell on him and he went on workman’s compensation for quite some time, living in a motel with no phone and only a post-office box. I faithfully wrote to him, never forgetting a holiday or his birthday, always sending graduation, missionary and wedding announcements, sometimes enclosing a check.

The next thing I heard, he was working at a hospital. He started calling all of us regularly and convinced us that he was earning a surgical nursing degree, much to our delight. Though we welcomed his calls, we tired of his hospital stories, questioning their veracity.

During that time, he claimed to be active in the Church, much to our relief.

One day I called the hospital to talk to Mikey. The operator, who knew me quite well by then, informed me that he no longer worked there. I asked if he had been hired away. She asked what I meant. I said, “Well, I know surgical nurses are in great demand. Did another hospital hire him away?”

She laughed and replied, “He was our bed-maker: Maybe the linen company hired him.”

I was so incensed that I wrote him a letter, demanding to know why he kept telling stories, assuring him that we do not care what he does for a living, begging him to change. That was in 1999. I have not heard from him since.

A couple of years ago, my older brother called the state police and asked for their help in locating Mikey. They found him. But, without his permission, they could not reveal any information about him; permission he denied.

A little while later, I received a call from an elderly Church missionary asking me for Mikey’s address. I asked who he was and why he was looking for Mikey. He explained that he was a Missing Church Member Missionary, assigned to locate missing Church members. Mikey’s membership records, he explained, had been floating since he left the last base he had lived on (which indicated that Mikey was not active in the Church, yet another tale).

A member of the Church my whole adult life, I had never heard of Missing Church Member Missionaries. I was impressed—and hopeful that they would find Mikey when his family could not.

They called again the next year with the same question: “Where’s your brother Mikey?”

Again, I answered, “I don’t know.”

“How can you lose track of your own brother?” the missionary asked.

“It’s not by choice,” I replied.

The Missing Church Member Missionaries continue to call me—as well as my LDS mother, brother and sister— every year looking for Mikey. Every year we tell them the same thing. “He’s disappeared.”

They keep looking.

We keep praying.

For a miracle.

Recently, I watched an LDS family turn their back on a homosexual family member, which enraged me. I confronted them. “I haven’t seen my baby brother in sixteen years,” I said, “or talked to him in six years. I wouldn’t care if he was gay or insane. I just want to know where he is and that he’s all right. I want him to know that I love him, miss him, and want to hear from and see him.” It must have done some good. They have since re-embraced that gay family member.

If my baby brother were to miraculously contact me today, I would send him a ticket to fly to my home for a visit. I would listen to his crazy stories and love him anyway. I would try to help him get back into the Church. I would try to get him some therapy. I would try to help him begin to deal with reality. I would re-embrace him and love him unconditionally.

But I may never get that chance.

In fact, I may be the one responsible for his disappearance.

Maggie May

(Details have been changed for privacy.)

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