“Lease,” said my parents, or my older siblings, “would you do me a favor?”
Mostly I did it, whatever “it” was. Or my brother, Fred, did it. We were the youngest, and were the runners, who went to get a Coke, or a pretzel, or a snack for our older family members. Even now, we’re still doing favors.
But there was one “favor” that none of my siblings did for Fred and me. But they should have.
You know if you’ve been reading my blogs, that my eldest brother Bob recently died. He didn’t do this favor for me. Neither did my sister Beth, who died in 2009. Nor did Judy, who kicked the bucket unexpectedly in 2000. Nobody knows when they’re going.
DO YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS A FAVOR.
MAKE A WILL. MAKE A LIVING WILL AND A MEDICAL DIRECTIVE.
TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT DONE WITH YOUR REMAINS. WITH YOUR STUFF.
My brother Bob died without a will. Actually, he DID have a will, and a Power of Attorney — we found that he’d bought forms to be filled out, but they were still in the shrink-wrap. I wanted to kill him. Without letting anybody know IN WRITING, what he wanted done with what, it was all guesswork.
Yes, when he was deathly ill, I had to trust my wonky memory of random conversations of what he would want. I hope I remembered correctly, given that he died and I can’t change any of those decisions. What did he want done regarding “heroic” measures by the doctors? What should we do with his remains — burial? cremating? And then what to do with those remains …
Did we do what he’d want? I hope so. We certainly tried.
Do yourself and your family members a favor. Or maybe a few favors:
We took Bob to see one last sunset, before releasing him into the Gulf of Mexico. I hope he is happy and resting in peace.
Some things never change.
“That boy was NEVER where he was supposed to be!” That was Mom’s mantra whenever telling her favorite stories of our childhood. Invariably they involved Bob. (It sucks to be a late entry into a big family.)
“People talk about the ‘terrible twos!” she’d say. “Well Bob was “a terrible two” for five years!”
Everybody agreed that Bob was quite a handful.
If you believe the stories, even before he could walk, Bob could escape:
He would leave the house, and appear at local businesses in his jammies. He went to the local bakery where he was given donuts, at the local restaurants where he was given pancakes, and at the homes of relatives who lived in the neighborhood. Usually before they had started their day. He was a friendly little tike. Or else he was hungry.
“I’m sure the whole neighborhood thought I was starving that kid!” Mom laughed. “I was mortified, and terrified that somebody would call the police on me for neglecting my son.”
Well, somethings never change.
Bob, after his death, escaped. And it cracked me up.
Bob was supposed to be sent to one funeral home, but he was sent to a different one. It took nearly 24 hours to get him to the correct place.
I love the idea that Bob wandered around town, one last time. I hope someone gave him a donut.
Some things never change.
We all have them. All five of us were born with Mom and Dad’s Irish blue eyes. They light up with laughter and mischief. Especially when we were all together. The last time all seven of us were together, the jokes ricocheted around the room as if shot from an AK-47.
Eva Cassidy. Bob gave her to me.
It’s one of my first memories.
We headed up Wells Street. Bob, my eldest brother who is seven years older than me, was riding me on the bar of his bike. I was about 3, and I sat happily on the bike, watching the baseball cards that were clothes-pinned to the spokes of the front wheel click.
“Lease,” Bob said, “Make sure to keep your feet out of the spokes!” He didn’t tell me why. Maybe he should have.
We turned onto Charles Street, next to St. Pat’s School. Our brother Fred was standing there on the corner.
“It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” Fred has said 3,428 times in the intervening years.
It had never occurred to me before Bob mentioned it, but I was suddenly curious as to what would happen if I DID put one of my feet into the spokes. So I just put one little piece of my sneaker in.
“You guys came around the corner, and all of a sudden, the bike just STOPPED! In slow motion, Bob flew over you and the handlebars, and then you, Lease, flew over too, and landed on top of Bob. The bike followed, and there was a big pile on the corner,” Fred has said, often. “I laughed and laughed.”
The lesson I took from that experience was that if somebody tells you not to do something, think about why they are saying that. They might just be right. It’s possibly one of the more important life lessons I’ve ever learned.
Of course, he taught me many other things. Big brothers do that.
Another lesson is that slapstick is hilarious. Unless you’re the one slapped.
As I write this, my big brother Bob lies in hospice in Florida, dying. His illness and deterioration happened incredibly quickly, and I can’t get there for a few more days for medical reasons. Fred is trying to get there to be with him. Bob is unresponsive, incoherent. Mentally gone.
As Bob is unmarried and has no kids, the decisions for his care have fallen to me, as I was named his medical proxy, and I’ve shared that responsibility with Fred, just as the three of us shared the burden (along with Beth’s sons) when our sister Beth was in Charon’s boat.
Writing comforts me, and you are all my friends, who have read the stories of my childhood, my family. Bob hasn’t appeared in many of my stories, as he was much older. He doesn’t fit into the narrative too often. Moreover, as an adult he has been a difficult guy. Reculsive, introverted, angry. His has been a difficult life.
But he was also a sensitive man, with a big heart that he kept well hidden. A writer’s eye for detail, and a love of eclectic movies. Like the brilliant comedy, What We Did On Our Vacation
Appreciate the folks you have who love you, and whom you love, no matter the differences. No matter how big a pain in the butt they are. Because you just never know.
Sunday mornings in my house growing up were dedicated to the Sunday Funnies, the comics, in the Bridgeport Post. While my dad always tried to convince me that Lil’ Abner was funny (it wasn’t), I loved Ripley’s Believe it or Not! I read it faithfully, for years.
It’s been years since I read it though. I chalk it up to reading the news online instead of on paper. The Funnies are not as easy to find online.
But just today, the Funnies made it to the “Real News”! Or it should have. You see, this story is A FRONT-PAGE-WORTHY story. A Believe it or NOT! classic.
In my adopted home state of Virginia, in the 5th Congressional District which includes Charlottesville, the GOP recently put forth Denver Riggleman to run for Congress. This change occurred when the incumbent, Republican Rep. Tom Garrett, retired following allegations that he and his wife made his staff do menial tasks including walking the couple’s dog.
But with Riggleman, the fur really starts to fly. You see, he, ummm, put his Big Foot in his mouth with his Instagram account:
That question has been inspired by Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat who’s running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District. On Twitter this Sunday, Cockburn accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica.” Her tweet included a crudely drawn image of Bigfoot — with the monster’s genitalia obscured — taken from Riggleman’s Instagram account. She added, “This is not what we need on Capitol Hill.”
After showing that image, I promise to not comment on the Democratic candidate’s name. I promise. Anybody got any duct tape??????
I agree that we don’t really need someone in the United States Congress who believes in Big Foot but not climate change. Who doesn’t realize that this is not an issue that Virginians care about. Who believes that there are women who want Big Foot — although if it weren’t for the small hands, that might explain Trump’s allure.
So, My Fellow Americans, in 2018 we find ourselves as a nation drawn into the Sunday Funnies. Into Ripley’s Believe it or NOT!
I can’t wait to hear how the Evangelicals will spin this one!
I have failed in my mission to keep you up to date on all things poop. I hang my head in shame.
Perhaps this clip will make up for it: