A Brother's Story
Wonder years; a brother remembered.
Memories in mourning
On a perfect late December day in 1950s Southern California; cold and clear, standing under a rare smog-less sky; we felt a child’s chance of snow in the air.
If one was to look over the top of the neatly rowed, newly constructed track homes of the era; adorned with their scalloped trim and bird-housed roof ridges,one would see snow on the San Bernardino Mountains; 70 miles to the East.
For a young boy on Christmas morning; this was nothing short of Magic!
I was 5 years of age, my brother 4; when we each received new Schwinn bicycles for Christmas.
One black, one red, and much chrome, the scent of fresh factory paint greeted the nose as we viewed the wondrous machines; carefully placed by unknown elves around the Christmas tree.
Apparently there was a Santa!
For us, life was complete; as we rode down the street, dressed in our Sunday pepper corduroy pants, and fresh crew cuts. Good times; happy times…
When holding a dying Siblings hand; it’s those little things you remember…
The memmories come flooding back; as if captured on an old black and white film, played on the dusty movie screen of an old movie theatre; long closed, yet remembered as if it was yesterday.
As death knocks on the door of hope and optimism, pushed to the side by the realization of loss; Shock sets in. Subtle at first, the days turn into weeks and then months. You’re tough, you can handle it!
Monday rolls into Friday, as the emotional numbness dumbs the senses. Where’d the year go? What happened last Wednesday? Who knows!
The many books written on the subject of grief and loss, and often readily dismissed by the otherwise emotionally built proof Man; will tell you to give yourself time.
Grieving is all consuming rather we accept it or not.
Family and friends assure you that it’s O.K.; that they understand, some do; some don’t
Eventually; you convince yourself that you’ve moved passed the loss. Bulls…t!
Weeks turn into months, life moves on; all things are back to normal. You pack the boxes of ‘stuff’ into a closet… the memorabilia of a passed life; reduced to a neat row of worthless crap.
One begins to forget those little things. You stop that instinctive auto reach for the phone; connected to a Brother that’s no longer there to answer it.
And then it hits you like a ton of emotion filled bricks; falling off the back of a truck, and blowing through your windshield. That sudden realization that it’s not o.k., and that most likely; never will be.
Your life time friend and confidant, your baby brother’s dead; and he’s not coming back.
That ache that you’re feeling, the sore neck; back; chest pain; throat; that inner fear of that unknown malady; is the vacancy left in your life by the loss of a loved one.
As Men, most of us have been taught by example; if not verbally by a Father; told to walk it off! Old school Men don’t cry; not allowed to…
Others, may remind you that your brother may not have always been such a highly evolved individual. Grumpy, aloof, ass h…, doesn’t matter… That’s my brother you’re talking about man!
Why? Why did this painfully disgusting end come to a seemingly good person? The answer? There isn’t one! Most survivors are left holding little more than their faith in a higher power; if they have one.
March 10 2011; was the day that my brother Patrick died of the effects of stage 4 Stomach Cancer.
In my eye’s; He was one brave S.O.B... Against all odds, and wanting to hang on for his Kids and family; Patrick had bought himself a year; with the financial support of his siblings. No job, no insurance; simply the will to live!
He was two weeks into his 56th year; when he took his exit.
The truth was… My Brother had died of disappointment and shame. These two inoperable conditions manifested themselves in Cancer.
The Cancer was the ticket out of his despair.
Rewinding a bit… as Pat would often say. “Pardon me; while I digress.”
Having survived brain cancer twenty years earlier; Pat new what he was up against. And yet, he would convince himself, as well as most of those around him; that he would be the first person to beat this yet incurable disease. The American Cancer Society would write his story; he would not lose this battle!
Via daily phone calls and Emails, I would follow his battle, blow by blow; for over a year, before he would eventually pass to the other side. Truth is, as with many stage 4 Cancer Patients, in the end; the pain killer took him out. We couldn’t control the pain.
The cause and effect of a broken society.
Moving back to Los Angeles after a decade in the Northern California Redwoods; Patrick rented the home in front of his Mother’s place. Recently divorced; after 15 years of marriage, Patrick had sold his home; quit his job; and headed back in time to a place that no longer existed.
The Southern California of his formative years was long gone. A distant memory, glossed over with a decade or two of occasional drinking.
As if landing a part in a badly written Twilight Zone episode of the 1950’s; nothing foreseen by Patrick, in his well-written plan for a new life in his old stomping ground; would materialize.
Caught in the throes of a great recession; Los Angeles County was second only to Detroit Mi. in unemployment. The chance of a 50s something, with a mechanical engineering, construction background; finding a well-paying, or in this case… any job; was slim to none.
That wouldn’t keep him from spending no less than 12 hours per day on the internet looking for work. Researching as well as applying for work became his work!
To be continued…