I got word Friday night that my oldest brother died. He was 50. My dad’s oldest, and my mom’s oldest stepchild. We were not close. At all. In fact, I think the last time I saw him was Thanksgiving of 2002, the first Thanksgiving I was of legal drinking age, much to my mother’s delight. It was the last Thanksgiving we were all together. My grandparents were still alive, and my father was teasing my grandmother about her Macular Degeneration (because that is a Thing that we do in my family). My brother was there with his…significant other (wife? girlfriend? I really don’t know.) We chatted briefly about the only thing we really had in common – music.
My memories of him are vague. There was the cookout I was 4 or 5, and he was in his military uniform. He had an Iron Maiden poster in his bedroom at his mom’s house. My dad, when I was 11, decided that I should take guitar lessons from my brother who was a guitar genius (not hyperbole – dude was seriously talented.) He had a crappy apartment in Asbury Park, furnished with a couch and a tv and I told him I wanted to learn to play the big solo from November Rain. He laughed. The guitar he gave me was a Les Paul knock-off with a huge crack up the neck from the body to the head. Our dad had given it to him when he first started playing.
He had a host of demons he tried to keep at bay, from what I understand. In addition to being a fucking guitar virtuoso, he was an honest-to-god genius. My theory is that people who have that capacity for knowledge just can’t handle it, and are prone to depression, addictions, and/or a combination of the two to try to get their brains to shut the fuck up and let them be. It’s a common theme among a lot of people I happen to know.
What hits hardest is the notion that my dad (our dad) and my dad’s ex wife have to bury their son. I cannot in a million years in a million ways fathom that. After having a nice distracting weekend to keep my mind off things (save for Friday where I felt a bit like a zombie, so sorry if I saw you and was acting like a fucking weirdo. Now you know why.), things have started to sink in. Perspective is something that death brings in leaps and bounds. It makes me so grateful for my family and friends, and of course, my son. Who was, just like my brother, a surprise. I don’t know how or why my brother made the decisions he made about his life, I can only hope to guide my son toward different choices. And cross my fingers.
Honestly, I don’t know how to react or what I should be feeling. Certainly, I am feeling incredibly…sad. Much sadder than I had anticipated. On the one hand, we were not at all close. On the other hand, my brother died. You know? It’s weird. He’ll be buried on Valentine’s Day which seems like a weird poetic end to such an enigmatic figure to me. And even though it is such a fucking cliche, I hope that his soul is at peace. He will be missed.