Mendel Letters 39 — Two Brothers

July 24, 2021

Dear Mendel,

This is an especially difficult letter to write. I was not a good older brother and sometimes not a very good son.

Mommy started getting really sick when I was nine. My younger brother was only seven. Two years later she was gone. Before she died we had a lot of new chores. We took clothes to the laundromat on E.L. Grant Highway between Shakespeare and Nelson for the weekly wash, did the shopping, and often prepared our own meals. When nothing else was in the house to munch on we used to dip rod pretzels that you brought home from the store in mustard. It is still my favorite snack.

I was responsible for the chores and my brother was supposed to help, but he didn’t, so I punished him. Mostly I hit him and threatened to hit him worse if he told on me. This continued and accelerated after Mommy died and we had more responsibilities and mostly were on our own. Our relationship never recovered from this and by the time we were both in high school we rarely spoke. There were other problems as well, which I will write about in other letters.

One of the games I played with him was to challenge him to do something to me first and then I would reciprocate. He would always get sucked in, probably because he needed to be related to me. Once I challenged him to tie me up, he did, and I easily unraveled the rope. Then I tied him up on your bed, and of course, he couldn’t untie himself.

When I heard you entering the apartment, I raced to get a kitchen knife so I could uncut the rope. You walked into the bedroom while he was lying there tied up on your bed and I was looming over him with the knife. It must have been raining outside because you were carrying an umbrella. You completely lost it and started to beat me with the umbrella. When you stopped and my brother and I calmed down, we tried to explain the “game’ to you. You weren’t impressed and made me pay for the umbrella, now shredded, out of my allowance.

Don’t know how you survived those days. This letter is a belated sorry.

Your son

Hard copies of these typed letters were discovered in an old camp trunk in the basement storage facility of one of the few buildings that remain standing in this Brooklyn neighborhood. The building is quite decrepit and is scheduled for demolition. The letters were found in November 2048 by a teenager who believes they were written by his great-grandfather. The letters are addressed to Mendel, the letter writer’s father, who appears to have been dead for at least six years when his son, whose name we are unsure of, started to write him. The son appears very agitated in some of the letters. With permission from the family, we are publishing them on the date they were written, only 28 years later.

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