Friday, October 11, 2013

Another Passing

After my mother's funeral, my brothers and sisters and I were sitting at the kitchen table in my youngest brother's house. Those who came from out of town were leaving the next day. For the living there are things that must be done. Jobs, school, and day-to-day things must be done.

My eyes suddenly filled with tears. My sister noticed and asked what was wrong.  I said; "I just realized that the next time we will all be together it will be because one of us has died." How morbid.

With that we all pledged to get together. Funerals are not the only family functions after all. There are births, weddings, and countless other excuses to gather. And we need not really have an excuse... just do it.

Those celebrations all happened. But for some reason it seemed that there was always at least one of us who could not be there.

About 20 years after my mother died, I was awakened by the telephone. My sister was calling to tell me our brother had died. He was one year younger than I.

My brother was what my mother called in a loving way a most unsatisfactory baby. He did not like to be held even during feeding. He liked being alone.

His was a difficult birth. Forceps were used and as a result one side of his face was paralyzed for about a day. Other than that he was as perfect as any baby should be.

One of my first memories is when I was very small. We lived in an apartment building. There was another young family with a little boy my brother's age. Mom used to trade babysitting with Skippy's mother. It was a good arrangement for both. My memory is Skippy's mother at our door collecting my brother to go spend some time with Skippy.

Skippy's mother bathed him by putting him in the tub to soap up and then turning on the shower for a rinse. One day she dropped both boys into the tub and turned on the shower. My brother had not ever had this done before and was completely traumatized. He never did get over his fear of water.

I loved being the big sister. All my life as a matter of fact. My mother put my brother in the high chair one day to eat and was called from the room. Well I was a whole year old.... the big sister. I took care of him.

Mom heard my brother crying and gagging in the kitchen and came running in. I had found a jar of baby food in the trash and tried to feed it to him. He had baby food and maggots all over his face.

My brother liked solitude. He spent hours and hours in his room playing with his baseball cards. He shared the room with our other brother who was welcome to join him any time. He often took friends in there too.

One day my sister and I heard them in there playing cards. We had evil thoughts and decided to act on them. First we put on every stitch of clothing we owned. Then we knocked on the door and asked if we could come in and play cards. My brother wanted nothing to do with dumb girls and said NO.

Then we said we wanted to play strip poker. My brother was completely outnumbered by all the other boys in there. We were admitted.

They saw that we were dressed for the occasion but knew they could beat dumb girls. The first hand was dealt. My sister and I managed to win. We were kicked out of the room and the door was locked.

In high school my brother went out for football. After a couple of weeks of training he could barely walk. Mom took him to the doctor. His Achilles tendon was too short causing the whole back of his foot and leg to hurt. He had to drop off the team.

That short tendon could not keep him out of the Army though. He was drafted. He went to Basic Training. He had a furlough between Basic and the second training. After the second training he was home again before he went to Officers' Candidate School. He did not care for the training and dropped it. He was transferred and helped test some new tanks the Army wanted to introduce.

He was then home for close to 2 months. He received his orders. He was going to Korea as an MP.

The border between North Korea and South Korea has been an active war zone since the early 1950's. My brother wrote that there was often shooting. He said that the shots fired at night were like fast moving fireflies zipping across the border.

An event happened one night in the guard shack where my brother was. He was not allowed to give details and never did. All we ever knew was that it involved a gun going off inside the shack. Every person involved was called in to give a report. Apparently it was something serious. My brother told the truth as to what he saw. He was the only one that was not immediately transferred.

When my brother was discharged from the service he came home and enrolled in college. While he was there he met a nice young woman, they began to see each other, and eventually married.

Our family loved her too. The funny thing was that they looked like twins. Their hair color and skin tone was almost exactly the same. Their first names even rhymed. What they did not have in common was their personalities.

My brother liked being alone. He was slow to wake up in the morning and was grouchy until he was fully awake. She was outgoing and needed people around her. For her it was the more, the merrier. She would wake up with energy and be ready to meet a brand new wonderful day.

They wanted children but it didn't happen. Gradually they realized their marriage was not going to work. It was an amicable divorce. They used the same attorney and went to lunch together after the proceedings. They remained friends but they could not be married. We have all stayed in touch with her too.

My brother's job often took him to other countries. His employer made industrial computers which would break down from time to time. It was my brother's job to find the problem and fix it.

During his travels he began dating fashion models. There was one in New York City that was special to him but not special enough to give up his alone space.

My brother had his first heart attack when he was only 42. It was just at the start of Hurricane Andrew. He felt mildly uncomfortable but remembered how quickly our father's heart attack escalated. He decided to call emergency.

They came and took him to the hospital. By the time the immediate threat was taken care of and he was made comfortable the only contact phone number he could remember was his work number. By the time we knew anything had happened,  he was home and recuperating. Several of us offered to go to him to help him. He wanted to be alone.

The blood thinners he needed to take put a stop to airplane travel so there were no more trips out of the country. His company found another position for him. They moved him from Florida to New York.

One hot day after work he stopped at a convenience store for a snack. He suddenly told the clerk he did not feel well and left the store. He was found by other customers lying in the parking lot.

My brother died as he preferred to live... alone. Once again we were all together just as I had feared. After I gave a eulogy full of tears we had his ashes interred in the same cemetery where my parents and another brother are buried.


  1. A sad story about a lost brother, but it seems he lived life on his own terms and left it the same way. Still being alone seems tragic especially when he had such a loving family.

    1. He was a loving person... he just needed more space than most people. I hurt thinking that he was alone but he probably would have chosen to be alone. He knew we loved him and we knew he loved us. I guess that is what is important. Thank you for your comments.

  2. I wonder what your brother went through in Korea. It sounded as if he had a really tough life. He must have known how much you loved him. I feel as if I know him after I read this.

    1. What a nice thing for you to say. I wanted you to see him as he was. I am sure we will never know what happened in Korea. Apparently it was a security issue.