Archive for June 9th, 2015

My Brother and ME

June 9th, 2015

I wrote this in March . . . and just added the ending.

Yes, he took my binky and threw it away because he thought I was too old to still have a binky. (Okay, he was right, I was pushing thirty six months at the time.) That memory is seared in my mind like a symbol burned into a calf’s butt by a red hot branding iron, but I hold no grudge.

Yes, he also took my favorite hat and tossed it into my grandmother’s outhouse, another truly devastating experience. And yes, he hid behind trees and doors and jumped out to scare me so often that, to this day, I walk defensively at night everywhere I go.

As a frequent bed wetting little kid, however, I often got even with him in our jointly owned double bed.

We have shared 12 years of our youth together and 56 more years of our adulthood. He’s Charlie, my only sibling,my brother, my friend, my touchstone, cheerleader, and translator.

We often have shared memories of vacations long gone, traditional jointly spent holidays, big Italian meals with our bigger than life Italian family, joint summer allergic asthma attacks before inhalers were invented when only shots of adrenaline provided the only relief.

We shared hanging wildly onto the bumper of our dad’s car while riding our sleds over bumpy, snow covered roads at what felt like supersonic speeds. We played army in the wash house and back yard. We had a real Nazi helmet, real enlisted man’s hat, a gas mask, telescopes, and half a dozen other war relics given to us by our WW ll veteran uncles.

We used green encased walnuts that dropped from our two black walnut trees as hand grenades as we pulled the stems- grenade pins off with our teeth and threw those hard green nuts mercilessly at each other from our natural fox holes. We had one Red Ryder air rifle that was built to shoot corks. We ran out of corks and usually filled the barrel with mud and grass by jamming it into the ground.

We had fake plastic bayonets and a plastic German Lugar squirt gun, but the most memorable part of our play was the CENTRAL COMMAND. My brother and older cousin, Jack, had set up a half dozen make believe and real adult and kid-sized radios, walkie talkies, and Morse code transmitters. Our main headquarters was on the ground floor, but the secret room, hidden by a trap door, was the second floor where a large plank window could be opened for shooting and fighting off aggressors with more fake hand grenades.

Because of our six year age difference, my brother left me behind for college just as I was entering puberty, and the next half dozen years were hit and miss as we’d see each other for holidays, summer vacation and occasional weddings, funerals, and Baptisms. (He reminded me that, while he was in college, I often sent him $5 bills from my $7.35 weekly profits from my paper route.)

His first real car was a fully loaded, mint green VW with a sun roof, white wall tires, and a white knob on his manual shift stick. He let me use it for a few weeks while he traveled that summer. What a great ride that was.

A few years later he bought a gold Pontiac Firebird, a hot car for a 20’s something brother and his college age sibling in which to tool around. Ironically, at 27 and 21, we both got married that same year, and I remember helping him move to Maryland, then a few years later he moved to Colorado, and finally back to Pittsburgh.

Overall, we’ve had a relatively uneventful, peaceful existence as we have dealt with the waves of life that jointly washed over us. We’ve said our goodbyes to our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. We’ve welcomed children, grandchildren, new cousins, and new friends.

Through his amazing efforts, we’ve discovered ITALY, and our Italian cousins there and in Ohio and Florida. We’ve celebrated new holidays and rolled with all of the punches that life has thrown, but last night, at his bedside, I prepared to say goodbye as a rapid response team with crash carts and drugs had swarmed around him. He was unresponsive and had stopped breathing. After they performed their magic, he pulled through, was transferred to the ICU, and our story goes on to another day.

UPDATE:

BUT AFTER TWO MORE MONTHS OF HOSPITALIZED STRUGGLE, about 168 days after he became ill in December, he left us, surrounded by our love in his home at 4:30 pm on Sunday afternoon, and my heart is broken.

Thanks to all of you for your support, your love, your assistance, and your positive comments to him, to his family, and to mine. He made this world better every day in every way. He was a VERY GOOD MAN.

I will always love you, my brother.

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