Sunday was the birthday of my brother Stephen. He would have been seventy. Leading up to the day, I wondered two things: how would I feel when it arrived and how would my mother deal with it?
The first words out of her mouth were, “It’s his birthday, today, he would have been seventy today.” Her voice was strong, yet there was a hint of sadness.
We talked for a few minutes of Stephen, we remembered events, ways he talked and then we moved on. My daughter Alexa was getting ready to close on her house. We talked about that. My new job was going well; we were even talking of maybe looking for a house ourselves.
My mother was happy to hear about that. She told me about Jenni, one of her granddaughters, and her boyfriend. How they were also talking of buying a house.
It seemed as if everyone was looking to the future. She asked about Penny, mother of my wife, Jo Ann. How she was doing, dealing with the passing of dear old Ralph. Penny was doing okay, dealing with it day by day; she had her friends and family to help her.
Our lives were moving forward.
It made me glad that my mom was taking it so well. I was worried about her. I thought sure the grief and depression that had torn her apart at his passing would return.
My mother hurt. She grieved. Yet, she was dealing with it; I was glad to know I was dealing with it, too.
I thought back over the months since Stephen passed. I’d thought about him every day, sometimes several times a day. I always picture him in my mind just as he was, tall, rather thin, thin wavy hair, on his head, lots and lots of body hair and that smile.
Stephen always had that smile, right up to the end. Then there were his shirts. Steve loved to wear a very specific kind of shirt:
Colorful Hawaiian shirts, covered with printed items. He had one with sailboats, one with fruit, one with tequila bottles and, well, he had a lot of them. He did love his shirts. I still have the one his dear wife, Linda, gave me at his funeral on Martha’s Vineyard. I like getting it out, occasionally, to look at and to hold.
It’s very soft.
There’s also his voice. I hear it at least once a day. A word, a phrase and, often, his laugh; he had such a nice laugh. What I particularly like is that he still inspires me.
Steve was always after me to not waste time on silly things. If I watched a game show on television, he’d chide me about life being short and that I should put my time to better use. Now, at least once a day, those words echo in my mind; I put aside whatever I’m doing and get back to what I should be doing: writing. He was always one to encourage me to write.
Talking to my mom helped. I felt as if one more step in the grieving process completed.
I know there’s still another to come, the anniversary of his passing. I still have the calendar from last year on my wall, open to November. The day circled.
I think I’ll be calling my mom again.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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