Memories of my brother, part 2

Time is relentless and moves forward without regard to the human condition. In other words, whether we pay attention or not, the present will slip through our fingers and become the past. So its best to not take anything for granted and to live today as if there were no tomorrow. Because one day you might just realize that there are no more tomorrows.

This is how I feel about my little brother who passed away Wednesday, November 6, 2013, just seven days shy of his fifty-first birthday.

I wrote yesterday that as children we weren’t the best of brothers. We weren’t the worst either. Probably somewhere in the middle, we loved and tolerated each other, but there was the 5-1/2 year gap we had trouble overcoming. That changed when I returned from the Navy.

My first day home, I was wandering through the maze that was our mom’s basement. Back then, it would have made for a good episode of hoarders.

After my parents had divorced, my mom went into collecting mode. The basement was filled with all sorts of antiques, memorabilia, and flea market items stacked hither and yon, with just space enough for some meandering paths.

I was like Louis or Clarke that day, exploring for the Northwest Passage. I didn’t find it, of course, but I did find a skateboard. Bear in mind, this was 1983. Skateboards were fairly primitive then, just a little better than a board with a skate nailed to it. Nor was skateboarding the craze it currently is. Honestly, it was the first one I’d ever seen. So being the adventurer, I took it out into the alley.

Naturally, I sucked. I had no idea how to make it work, so I’d just stand on it and let gravity roll me down the alley. Or I’d give it a push with one leg. Needless to say, I grew bored with it. So I picked it up to take it back downstairs just as Tom came home from work.

“Whatcha doin’?” he asked. I explained I’d found the skateboard and thought I’d try it but I hadn’t gotten very far.

He took it and said, “Let me show you how its done.” He didn’t say it smugly or arrogantly. That wasn’t Tom. No, he genuinely meant he would show me so I could try again.

I guess I should mention that my brother was now over six feet tall and was battling a weight problem (or not battling it, if you catch my drift). I think back then he was close to, if not over, 300 pounds.

I was like, “Are you sure?”

He got on, gave it a few kicks to get up to speed, then he promptly wiped out in spectacular fashion.

“My ankle! I broke my ankle!” Yes, he certainly had shown me how its done. I tried not to laugh, but you know how it is. Anyway, I struggled to get him to his feet and helped him hop over to the car, then drove him to the Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s.

He had indeed broken his ankle. Second time, too, as I later learned. This time he needed a pin for support and he spent the next few weeks in a cast.

That was my reintroduction to my little brother. I learned he was as prone to leaping without looking as I was.

Throughout the ‘80s we both lived with our mom. I went to college, he worked whatever job it was he had at that time, and then we’d spend the evenings watching television together and riffing on them like we were part of Mystery Science Theater 3000. We discovered our senses of humor were very similar: dry and warped. Probably inherited from our father.

We watched shows like “Riptide,” “Airwolf,” “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” to name a few. (At this point I’d like to point out that it was my brother who turned me into a Whovian. I had come home from leave back in the 1970s and he and my mom were watching this weird show on PBS.about some wild eyed crazy man with a long scarf. It was Doctor Who. If I have nothing else nice to say about my brother, just turning me on to Doctor Who should be enough.)

My brother was a geek, too. He had the entire series of “Speed Racer” on VHS, although I don’t know what became of it. He also had several sci-fi/fantasy figurines, such as ships from Star Trek and dragons and wizards. And he was a gamer. One day he brought home a Sega Genesis and we played against each other for hours.

On my first visit to see him in the hospital when we learned he had cancer, I wanted to bring something he might find fun. I tried to get a model of the Mach V, but the hobby store clerk told me those were hard to come by. So I picked up bendable copies of Gumby and Pokey. When I mentioned I had tried to get the Mach V, he said he already had a nice diecast version of it. He was animated in his description of it. That made me glad because Tom was the sort who always made sure everyone around him was happy at his own expense. I’m sure that Mach V meant a lot to him.

My brother and I became close during the 1980s. We had tons of inside jokes. Sometimes the joke was so inside, it made no sense to anyone, but we thought it was hysterical. For instance, we’d both crack up if either one of us said, in a deep bewildered voice, “The boy?” usually to indicate our bafflement over something. (Maybe one day I’ll explain the reference.) And there were many more. We probably drove people crazy when we’d just exchange random dialog from the many television shows we had watched.

As the ‘80s drew to a close, he moved into an apartment with his friend Mark. We’d still see each other, sometimes going to a bar together. Sometimes he’d come home to do some laundry because it was cheaper than a laundromat. It was a ritual he continued even after he was married. If it was Sunday, you knew Tom was at our mother’s. I think Sundays from now on will be very rough for mom.

Tom was always enthusiastic about things. When I was looking to get my own car, he came along, and when I found this little sporty silver car and it became obvious I was going to buy it, he ran over to it, arms wide, and gave it a hug. He was happy for me.

But time marched on and eventually I married. Then he married. And life became busier, children came along, and we saw less and less of each other. Mostly holidays at our mom’s.

But we’d call once in a while. We had this phone thing that I know drove my wife nuts. If one would call the other, it went something like this:












And this would go on and on until one of us would finally go, “What do you want?!”

My ringtone for Tom, appropriately enough, was the Three Stooges doing their “Hello. Hello. Hello.” routine. Now, I’ll never hear that on my phone again.

We all know its part of life to lose people. Some you expect, like aging parents or relatives. Some you don’t. Siblings are in the some you don’t category. In fact, you expect siblings to be around your whole life. You expect to grow old together so you can get together at the holidays as grandparents and reminisce about the past, about all the good times you had together.

You don’t expect them to be gone, taken unexpectedly in their prime, leaving you with the regret that you didn’t spend enough time together. That you let the opportunity to spend time with them slip through your fingers.

The last twenty years flew by and I guess we lived them expecting at least another twenty more years together. But Fate had other plans and now my little brother is gone. Its still hard to believe. It happened so quickly with barely time enough to say we loved each other.

If there is a Heaven or an afterlife and Tom is up there, I hope he knows how much he meant to me even though I never was the sort to show it or say it.

I’m going to miss my little brother. And one day, when my time eventually comes (which I pray will be a long way down the road), I hope the first thing I hear is









4 thoughts on “Memories of my brother, part 2

  1. So, I’m a little bit misty here. I hope you’re happy.

    Your brother died way too young. But he obviously died well loved. That doesn’t even the score, but it makes it closer.

    Of course we all walk the same path. Sometimes it’s shorter for some of us. Sometimes it’s longer. I’m not sure which of us wins. As far as I can see it’s a crapshoot.

    Man hugs for you, my friend. Any time you need to talk you know how to find me.

  2. I can’t believe I’m reading this now, I wish my mother would have told me about this.. I’ve been crying for about 3 hours now just thinking about my dad. I’m also thankful that you wrote this. Next time I see you, you’re getting a great big hug. This is truly amazing. I love and miss you so much, you two look so much alike, I sometimes would get confused on who is who. Prayers are with you always ❤

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