For those of you whom I don’t talk to on a regular basis, I was going to post a message on here but instead I will just post the column I wrote last week.
My wife, Susie, let me sleep in this morning because I haven’t been sleeping well for the past couple of weeks. My younger brother passed away in California on the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday and I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to come to grips with this event. I have also decided to write for you what I can about it hoping that this might serve as a catharsis of sorts. The problem in this is that I fancy myself to be a humorist and Lord knows the death of my brother is anything but humorous.
And then there’s another problem. Even though I appreciate that Susie let me sleep in, that action moved me dangerously close to the newspapers deadline. The minutes are ticking away and I’m just sitting here with a lukewarm cup of coffee, my third of the day and one more than I usually drink in the morning. Doctor’s orders, you know. A much warmer laptop computer is sitting idly by, perched on what is left of my lap. I’m staring at the screen as I find myself in a quandary, one that for me is a bit unusual. I’m not sure I can find the words I need to describe this experience. I’ve erased, cut, pasted and retyped a hundred different sentences searching for the right words. It shouldn’t be that difficult. There’s nothing sinister or taboo about the subject. In fact, it’s an everyday, very personal occurrence for millions of people but that doesn’t make it any easier for me to talk about it. In fact, I’m not even sure I should but since I also fancy myself to be an observer and occasional reporter of the human condition, I’m going to give it a try.
This was a very difficult time for all of the folks who loved Ron; especially his wife, Julie, and their children, Marcus and Michael, as well as his friends and extended family. We could only pray and stand helplessly by, watching as the Medical community battled with a very aggressive tumor that was having its way with one of the brighter brains to ever come out of our hometown of Loogootee, Indiana.
When it was all over, we had a few days to accept what had happened before the funeral. The tension was broken for me with my discovery of something new about Susie, my wife of 47 years. On the morning of the funeral, she and I got up early to pick up our son, Joe, at the airport. We were on a very tight schedule so we stopped at the Hotel’s continental breakfast and grabbed some yogurt and bananas to eat in the car, a practice I perfected over a lot of years while driving to work.
Cruise control was a real boon to those of us who were trying to get other things accomplished while driving to work and using our knees to steer. I became very adept at scanning the newspaper headlines while eating my breakfast. In thirty years time, I only had to stop and buy a new, clean shirt less than 10 times although I probably should confess that I did go through at least twice that many neckties. Coffee or a hurriedly fried egg sandwich really plays havoc with whatever happens to be reclining just below your chin. Sometimes it was my beard but mostly it was those hapless, sloppily tied neck adornments.
Susie and I raced down along Interstate 80 and I managed to eat my banana without taking my hand off the wheel. But when I tackled the yogurt, the car wavered just a bit. I had lost my knee steering expertise, not a good thing on 10 lanes of busy highway.
“Quit it.” Susie yelled. “Give me that yogurt. I’ll feed it to you.”
It was a delicate operation. I couldn’t take my eyes off the road so I turned my head slightly toward her, hoping she could hit my mouth without getting yogurt all over me.
“AAAAAGGGH.” She screamed. “Put your tongue back in your mouth. I am not feeding you with your tongue hanging out like that.”
I couldn’t do it. I have to stick out my tongue, even just a little bit in order to get a utensil in my mouth. Good God. What else is wrong with me? Needless to say, Susie would not back down. I did without the yogurt and we went on.
Ron’s passing has been emotionally draining but we all took comfort in his extremely courageous acceptance of his destiny. Those of you who knew him will also be comforted to know that he approached his providence without fear or resentment. His attitude was aided by a strong faith and the knowledge that he would be reunited with loved ones in his next life. Even when he was having trouble speaking, he managed to whisper a question to us in his hospital room about who might be the person to greet him in heaven. His spiritual advisor told him that it would be whomever he wanted, provided that person was there. Ron raised his head and said in a very strong voice: “I’ll tell you this much. If there’s anyone in heaven, it’s my mother.”
I agree wholeheartedly with him and even though there have been many times I have doubted this whole question of the afterlife, today I’m sure that the two of them, along with my dad, my sister and my other brother, are all busy catching up on the family.
Godspeed, little brother.
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This experience was also a trying time physically. Much of this stress and strain came from two hurried trips to California, including one over the Thanksgiving holiday, an experience I would not wish on my worst enemy. There has been much in the news recently about the invasive ‘don’t touch my junk’ pat downs in the Security check area at the airport. I won’t bore you with griping about the process. Susie and I were not selected for that random activity but it didn’t matter. The normal screening that everyone goes through is more than enough to push every ‘old curmudgeon’ button on my body.
I was also going to say something about an additional hazard of flying on holidays; very loud crying babies, including one sitting right behind me in a cramped and crowded, cattle pen like aircraft cabin. But then I decided I shouldn’t complain. I don’t have anything against crying babies, After all, I happened to have been one myself.That was my column.
I am slowly coming to grips with my brother’s passing but this event has really taken the wind out of my sails. We are heading for Florida after Christmas but every time I think about getting ready to go, I find I am not interested in traveling. I have this need to be around friends and familyand I also want to spend as much time in Loogootee as I can.