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He ain't heavy, he's my brother

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He ain't heavy, he's my brother

by Laverne de Vries
14 Feb 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Despite having worked at People's Post for nine months, I am still a little surprised when I stroll the streets in search of stories and people approach me to enquire about my brother. More often than not I am surprised that they know him but then I realise that, because of my columns, they know of him.


What they don't know however, is that he celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday - an achievement, as we feared that his heroin addiction would claim his life before he even started living it.

During the six months that he has been "clean", I have witnessed a change. According to him, while living on the streets through his addiction, he decided to make 21 his benchmark to turn his life around.

So for the past few months I have been hearing about his dreams of getting a job, buying a VR6, modifying it, hopefully meeting a nice girl, getting married and having babies. And with every hope and dream he voices, no matter how absurd it sounds, I am glad that he is beginning to sound like the little boy I once knew who hoped to be able to dance like Michael Jackson when he grew up.

While making his birthday speech, I regaled his friends with fond tales of him.

My grandmother always said my brother was the ugly duckling that became a swan because, throughout his toddler years, he had absolutely no hair on his head. In addition to that, he screamed like a banshee.

Growing up he had a wild imagination and, for a while, I thought he would be an actor because his impersonations of Bruce Lee were phenomenal. After the karate phase, he honestly believed he was Michael Jackson, never mind being able to dance like him.

My funniest memory of him is when he refused to buy new school trousers because he was outgrowing the old ones. He felt he looked more like Michael in them and after school he would come home, stand on the dog's kennel, unbutton his shirt, put on one of my aunt's white wedding gloves and bellow "Aaaah", á lá Michael Jackson.

The expression on his face as we saw the King of Pop on stage when he toured South Africa was completely priceless. For two hours he said absolutely nothing - probably because his mouth was rounded in an awestruck "o" for the entire concert.

His pop star phase then turned into a surfing phase and, even though he couldn't swim at the time, he owned a surf board. He then obtained a bicycle, forcing me to lie down in our road so that he could jump over me (the things we do for love!)

After which he became something of bird enthusiast and built a cage for 20 pigeons that he owned. In retrospect, he went through so many phases but the scariest one and the one most uncharacteristic of his bubbly, imaginative self, was the recent four-year long battle with drugs.

Although I can only hope that it was a phase, I know the experimentation will haunt him forever. What I want him to know is that the mere fact that he is making a change and blossoming into the young man I always thought him to be - motivated, funny and warm - is enough to make me proud.

May his journey into adulthood be filled with happiness.

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