08:40:40 am on
Monday 20 Nov 2017

I Took It Down
AJ Robinson


Two years, it's now been two years since we lost my brother, Stephen, to cancer. I find it strange the differences between him and other family members that are gone. I don't think of my grandparents or aunt as often, not even my dad. With Steve, it's daily. His image appears in my mind's eye, his voice at my ear, especially his laugh, and I feel his arms about me in one of his hugs.

I really miss his hugs.

I laugh at some of his antics. Mister Know-It-All, yeah, that was Steve. I actually roll my eyes to think about some of the silly things he'd go on about. Why'd I take that brownie instead of the other? Why was I in the right lane instead of the middle? Why boat shoes instead of sneakers? I never thought I’d have to explain my choice of footwear just to go sailing!

I also value his words. I don't waste nearly as much time as I used it. Time is just too important to me. Stephen is that little spirit urging me on, telling me to work on my writing, to call mom or some other friend or family member and not to worry over the little things in life that won't matter in twenty years.

That's why I feel ready to get rid of it.

Two years, now, that same calendar has hung on my wall, open to November, with the important dates are marked on it. There was mom's 90th birthday party, Thanksgiving, my wedding anniversary and the day. The eighth of November, the day Stephen left us. I still remember the moment with perfect clarity. I don’t even have to close my eyes to relive it. There was the beep of my phone to signal a text message coming in. I lifted it from my desk, flipped it over and brought up the message.

The words cut through me right to the very marrow of my soul.

It’s one memory I truly wish I could banish from my mind. Now, sitting at my desk, reading, playing a game, watching television or writing I look up and see the calendar and other memories wash over me. For a long time, pain accompanied each recall of our lives together, but it eventually transitioned into the warm embrace of nostalgia, and thus today I feel ready to take the next step.

I took the calendar down, today.

I no longer need its physical presence. No, I carry Stephen within me. Yet, I have finally achieved a degree of peace.

As a final gesture to Stephen, I wrote a short story, only fifteen pages and printed it out. It was easy to write, the story came to me in a dream and so I consider it his last gift of inspiration to me. I also decided it was something deeply personal and, thus, was confused as to what I should do with it. I could post it here a few pages at a time, but I wasn’t sure if the editor was okay with that sort of thing; he would be, I know.

Just this past week, the answer came to me. I went down to Naples to help my mom celebrate her birthday. She’s ninety-two and, as always, adamant that she didn’t want any presents. To be honest, at her age, what could I possibly give her?

Then I figured it out. My new story, I would share it with her, and hope she liked it. When I arrived, I slipped her an envelope with it, told her it was something special for her and let her put it aside. I still don’t know if she’s read it, but I consider it a joint gift from Stephen and me.

Stephen, my sibling, by birth, he was my brother by acts of friendship, help and love.

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.

More by AJ Robinson:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.