Saturday, April 10, 2010

Michael, my brother

Today is the 14th anniversary of my brother Michael's death. I started writing about him this morning, intending to post it today. And I wrote and wrote. And then a little more. And I realized how much I don't know about him. So, I think I have some conversations and more writing before me. I like the idea of that. I'll post what I wrote as a start, but not today. It's so much more than I expected. But I want to mark this day and his memory with some words. So here are a few excerpts.

I guess I don't really know how to mark a death anniversary. I don't really know what to do with the death of a brother, even though it's been 14 years. What does it mean to have a brother who died? I've been wondering that for 14 years. But what I do know, is I want to be aware of the date, to mark it and not miss it anymore.

Michael was born with a serious heart defect. My dad's explained it a few times, but it's one of those things my brain can't or won't remember. I'm going to ask again, write it down this time. He wasn't supposed to live at all. I can't be sure of my memory, but I fuzzily remember a line like -- he died X times before he was two -- x being some big number, 12? Maybe not that high. But more times than a person should die in their lifetime, let alone before their second birthday. I remember my dad saying Michael's heart would stop, that his face or lips would turn blue, and they'd rush him to the hospital, where he'd be resuscitated. So, his life, short as it was, was a miracle. Almost thirty-six years of borrowed time. I'm older now than he lived to be.

The main thing about Michael is he was funny, funny. Sarcastic, cutting, yet funny. I loved how hard he could make my brother Justin laugh, like really belly laugh, not many people could do that. When we were kids, he specialized in ridiculous, creative, hilarious presents. My favorite example is the year he gave my brother camouflage. My brother was super into Army stuff when he was a kid, wore camo clothes, had a giant army of the little green army men (I was always most fascinated with the kneeling radio guy). So Michael gives him a big box all wrapped up. Justin opens it and finds actual branches, leaves, grass, the whole bit -- you know, real camouflage. Justin couldn't stop laughing. Me either. He also gave Justin a record one year in a big box that he filled with dry dogfood, so he wouldn't be able to guess what it was. Stuff like that. You never knew what to expect, except it would be something you didn't expect. And it would be funny.

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