I am the oldest of three grandchildren on my mom's side. My mom's sister, my aunt Betty, had my two cousins Midge and Frederick. Midge and I grew up almost as close as siblings because of proximity and sheer amount of time we spent together. So we loved each other as much as siblings might, and we hated each other as much as siblings might.
Frederick is two years younger than Midge, but he didn't have a good start in life.
One summer day when Frederick was two years old, Midge (at age 4) and I (at age 8) were sent outside to play. I think the other kids were living with my grandparents and I was spending a typical weekend at their house. As the oldest, it was my job to mind the other two. I wasn't so good at looking after them, and became distracted by one of the many games Midge and I used to amuse and/or annoy each other in my grandparents' back garden.
My aunt had locked the door when she sent us outside, either by accident or to prevent the incessant in-and-out routine that we were so fond of back then. Either to tattle on someone else, or pee, or get a snack we were bothersome by routine and were forever being yelled at to pick a location and stay there. We often ignored such directives, and the door sometimes got locked behind us. Sometime during the day we lost track of Frederick, and he fell into the pool and drowned.
When I discovered him, he was grey-faced and unresponsive. I didn't know enough to pull him out of the water and start CPR and I panicked when I discovered him floating face-down. When I couldn't get inside the house nor rouse my aunt, I left the yard and ran to the fire department located at the opposite end of the street from my grandparents' house.
The building was empty, and I couldn't find any firemen. We later learned the fire men were having a barbecue in the yard behind the fire station and I was thoroughly berated for not locating them properly.
Frederick was eventually taken to the emergency room, where he was placed on life support. He was comatose, and would remain so for two years.
My grandparents and Aunt Betty blamed me for "the accident", as they refer to Frederick drowning, and it was a long time before I understood that I was not at fault for what happened. I no longer feel responsible for his current state, which is vegetative, but that early hurt drove a wedge between me and my family, one that is not fully healed today.