It happened at the odd house on Greenthumb Drive. That house had the ugliest fireplace in the middle of the living room with a large pipe that hung from the ceiling, suspended by chains. The wallpaper in our bathroom was bright yellow and orange with big white flowers. There was a hill on the side of our neighbor’s house that was ideal for rolling down or getting more speed on a slip-n-slide in the summertime. This odd house with the ugly fireplace and the tacky wallpaper and the hill on the side was where I tried to kill my brother.
The evening it happened, my cousin and I were playing on the hill. We were having a great time rolling down, laughing and rolling down again, when my younger brother came out to play with us. I was annoyed with his presence joining in. He was always around, always needing something.
My little brother, A.J., was born with severe birth defects that affected his digestive and reproductive systems. Because of his special needs, he required around-the-clock care from my mother. I resented him for requiring so much of her attention. I ached for her play with me. Sometimes I wished I was sick too so I could feel what it was like to be taken care of by her.
The evening my cousin and I were rolling down the hill, I noticed a huge fire ant pile a few feet away. If you’re from Texas, you know that fire ants are a different breed of ant. Their bite feels like being burned. I knew that if we rolled down in that area, we would land in the middle of the ant hill, so I avoided part of the hill for that reason.
I realized that if I could get A.J. to roll down in just the right spot, he would land in the ant pile. Any small illness or virus seemed to be life-threatening to him, so I figured if he got enough ant bites, he could potentially die from them. With those thoughts in mind, I instructed him to roll further away from me so I wouldn’t tumble over him, and we could all roll down the hill at the same time.
We counted to three and we all went tumbling down. Just as I thought, A.J. landed right in the middle of the fire ant pile. I can still remember ants swarming all over his overalls as he stood up. I immediately knew that what I’d asked him to do was very wrong.
I screamed at my cousin to get my mom. I pulled A.J. out of the ant pile and ripped off his clothes as fast as I could. At that moment, I was desperate to save his life. I wanted nothing more than for him to be okay. By the time my mom made it outside, he was fully undressed and I was still brushing off his body to make sure the ants were gone. He was crying as she looked him over, trying to calm him down.
As I stood there panicked, my mom turned to me with tears in her eyes. She embraced me. I still remember how foreign and lovely it felt like to be held in her arms. She cupped my face and told me how proud she was of me. She said I was brave and strong and did the right thing by taking off his clothes. She called me a hero and said that I had saved his life.
I also heard the voice of the Accuser that day. She wouldn’t love you if she knew what you had tried to do. You’re not a hero – you’re the bad guy. You don’t deserve her love at all.
Nearly 30 years later, I see the complicated and confusing feelings my innocent heart was wrestling with. I believed myself to be bad then, even if I had saved my brother in the end.
This page of my story looks like a watercolor mess of villainy and heroism.
I tried to kill my brother so I could have my mother’s love.
Looking back, I see a small girl standing on the back patio of that odd house on Greenthumb Drive. Her face is downcast. She is alone. She watches ants scurry back into the grass. I want to kneel down and scoop her into my arms. I would rock her like a mother and whisper, You are loved, dear one. It’s okay.
My brother made it out of this incident without a single ant bite. It was a miracle. I’m grateful for the hand of protection God placed over my brother’s body and my seven-year-old heart. To this day, the sight of any grassy, rolling hill invites me to remember that God’s grace is tucked into every page of my story.
Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.