My brother died late last week. He was only 62 years old. I loved my brother, but I know he had a very rough life. His life didn’t start out that way though. He was born the fourth son and the sixth child in our 10 children family home. We all started out the same. We were hard working migrant laborers. We had a father and mother that loved us. They focused on building within each of us a work ethic that would help us become successful in America. Every summer we worked in the fruit/vegetable fields harvesting crops. Every Fall through Spring we attended school to complete our education so we could achieve the American Dream.
We all faced challenges. We were minorities in a majority white Michigan. From the beginning, we were the one “Mexican” family on the block. Teasing, chasing, bullying were the norm vs the anomaly. My brother faced it worse than most. He had an added factor. He was also overweight. This brought additional teasing.
Nevertheless, he was a very smart person and always did his best. I think he had his heart broken a few times, though he never dwelt on any negative experiences.
After he graduated from school and found his first job, he met a girl and married her. They had a beautiful daughter. The marriage only lasted only a few years. They mutually decided to divorce.
He came into his own after his divorce. He started advancing at his job and he lost weight. He became very handsome and dapper. Everyone said he looked like Freddie Prinze. It was the late seventies. Chico and the Man was a popular TV show and my brother was getting a lot of attention. Being the seventies, he started to dabble in pot and other miscellaneous feel good drugs. I knew a few people who did the same, but my boyfriend (now husband) and I were not into that kind of stuff so we drifted away from my brother and his crowd. By that time, my husband and I were married and I started advancing in my own career. We moved away from our hometown. After that, I only saw my brother once in a while when we came home for visits.
My brother married again and had two more children, a boy and a girl. After a few years, his partying went a little out of control. His marriage broke up. His new ex-wife moved to another state. He paid child support but rarely saw his kids. A few years later he lost his job. He didn’t give up his partying. Soon, he was drifting from job to job, usually in construction or as a handyman. He lost his house and later moved in with my parents.
None of my brothers and sisters were happy about this at first. However as my parents grew older, it was helpful to have him there. He became a very good caretaker of our parents. After our Dad died in 93, he became our mother’s sole caretaker and companion. In the last few years of her life, we were grateful to him especially the last six months when she was totally disabled and suffered from dementia.
Our mother died in January 2008. He became very depressed. I think he felt lost without mom. He had previously stopped his partying ways and now with mom gone, he just stayed home and seemed to give up. His health started to falter. He had diabetes and always seemed tired. He was only 62 when he died last Friday of natural causes. I suspect the actual cause was a broken heart. His two youngest children came to the funeral. They had been estranged from their dad for years, but they were so heartbroken by his death. It was just gut wrenching to see their tears.
My oldest brother (69) is in very poor health. He has ALS and is losing most of his muscle control. He doesn’t have much longer to live. He is in Michigan and was not able to travel due to his health so he did not attend the funeral.
The rosary/wake and the funeral Mass were all emotions. Afterwards, the immediate family gathered together just to talk. Then everyone began going home. My sister and I drove our oldest sister (68) to the airport. In years past, we would just drop her at the terminal entrance, but this time, we parked. I carried her luggage and guided her to the counter then to airport security.
My sister fell last year and this impacted her ability to walk on her own. She now walks with a cane. She moves so slowly. I remembered when we were young and we would run and laugh together. Now, she was not only fragile, she was elderly. I wondered how much longer we would have her with us.
I think I needed the five hour drive back home just so I could think about what happened over the previous few days. I didn’t cry much. I’m afraid to cry for fear I will break down. The few times I almost cried was during the wake and when his children cried.
I thought about my brother and his short life. My parents and another brother were dead too. My oldest brother and sister may soon follow. I remember putting together easel boards with so many pictures of my brother with our family. I know my brother did not achieve his dreams.
When I came home, I hugged my youngest son. I held my husband’s hand for a long, time. It felt good to just hang on to them for a little while. I love my husband and children so much. My husband and I talked for a little while about the week but I didn’t go into too much detail, just that it was sad and I was worried about my oldest sister.
My husband is bowling tonight and I started to look at my email and my blog. I decided to let my blog wait one more day before I jump back into it. Instead, I decided to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper. Life is just so damn short. It isn’t fair. What happened to hopes and dreams and plans for the future? Death is always there. That is a guarantee. If not death, then there is always debilitating disease, especially when you get older. How unfair.
I am a little mad at myself. Maybe I could have been a better sister. Maybe I could have been a little more understanding. Maybe I could have visited more. It is too late for that now.
Then I think he lived his own life the way he wanted to live it. Maybe he is happier now. Maybe he did get what he wanted. He did believe in Heaven.