It has been a few days since my oldest brother, Joe (whom I will always refer to as Joey), passed away. Of course, many thoughts…..many memories…..many emotions have been forming and expressing themselves since then and made it somewhat difficult to put into words. But this is my first try.
Joey’s life was brought to an end by cancer. No amount of time hearing or even seeing the disease eat away at someone truly prepares you for the loss. I thought I was prepared, I really did, but it was still hard. And yet, like a double edged knife, it also brought about the means to interact with my brother I may not have had otherwise. When he first was in the hospital for an unrelated issue, and which ultimately exposed the cancer he had, our family came together. I was able to spend time with him I may not otherwise have received. Each time we talked, we tacitly knew it could be the last time and therefore it was that much more precious. And we were able to discuss how meaningful we were to each other. I will always thank God for these moments, as we are not guaranteed them in life.
But enough about his death, I really want to talk about his life. Joey was not perfect at all, I will be the first to share that. In fact, he was downright quirky! None of my friends had a brother with long hippie hair, resembled Einstein, was a devout pacifist, or refused to kill spiders in the house. He was a vegetarian way before it was cool, didn’t mind putting electrical tape on his eyeglasses if broken, and despite having the intelligence to program complex computer code – preferred to live as though it were the 1940’s. I was always a little scared to ride in the car with him growing up (before my love for roller coasters) and he would often frustrate the hell out of me when I needed help with math in school because he was so passionate he’d want to go back to its inception and explain all the nuances involved. I, on the other hand, just wanted to finish my homework. So I admit he was not perfect.
But I loved him, and he loved me back very well. And here are some bullet points as to why.
- When I was little I had very long hair. He was the most gentle when brushing it.
- While many remember that he was a “perpetual student”, he cared for me and my brother David while my parents worked until I was about 12. That meant he was in his mid twenties.
- I am not sure how he did it, but he helped me to LOVE reading. He would take David and I to the library, used book stores, and other places and we would have so much fun.
- He never, ever lost his temper with me. Never.
- When my mom had her first heart attack when I was 16, Joey went to the hospital with her and my dad. He came home alone with tons of groceries; ice cream, ding dongs, cookies…..you get the drift. And then he calmly shared that mom was staying in the hospital but would be okay. He was always careful to care for our feelings.
- He exposed me to vast amounts of music; classical, eastern, Led Zeppelin.
- He made weird food. Sometimes awful food. Sometimes fun food like pizza from scratch, even with my own kids.
- He took me shopping for clothes before my senior year in high school, even though he didn’t take care of me anymore.
- He paid for my first semester of college books and told me he was there if I needed more, that he didn’t want me to worry about costs related to school.
- He asked me to sing at his wedding, even though he knew how I sing.
- He transformed my life………
More memories to come. I miss Joey, but I know he will always be with me and that these memories are real and will not go away. Thanks for reading.