This may surprise you, but I was a weird child. I was plagued with night terrors and picked on at school. It didn’t help that I peed my tights in 3rd Grade while standing in front of the class reciting from the Weekly Reader, or that I brought a live bullfrog in a bucket for show and tell. Those are the kind of images that die hard in the minds of elementary school children… I was the definition of misfit: a mark for my more self-assured classmates who used my ponytail as a handle and called me “witch” on the playground (believe me if I was a witch, they would have been turned into bullfrogs, and who named that hellhole a playground?).
I don’t remember a lot from my childhood. I have specific memories (like refusing to eat cream of asparagus soup or sitting on my mother’s lap in a rocker) when I was a toddler, but the big picture is fuzzy and comes to me in snippets.
The one thing I remember vividly is my big brother. He was my hero. Tim was eight years older than me; nerdy-cool; a budding scientist who actually blew up our garage; and above all else – kind to me. I have this mental picture of my brother in a white tee-shirt, standing in his bedroom doorway (his was directly across from mine) opening a new purchase he’d ordered from a catalogue. There were gag syringes with retractable needles, chocolate covered bugs, beakers and microscopes, formaldehyde, suture kits and live reptiles he’d move to cages in the basement.
For some reason, Tim let me hang out with him. I’d sit at the end of one of his twin beds with the dog, while he held court. His nerdy-cool friends were more like an experimental control group: their hair standing on end to study static electricity, the dirt beneath their fingernails smeared onto petri dishes. When Tim looked at me or asked for my assistance or included me in a secret, I felt like a warm sun was shining on only me. That’s my definition of a hero. Not a dude in tights who scampers over tall buildings, but the person you admire, who steps in at exactly the right moment, and makes you feel worthy.
Tim died eight years ago yesterday. The platelets plumbed from a catheter in my crotch were a perfect match and he was pronounced Leukemia free, but he died shortly afterwards from “complications”.
As adults Tim and I were not as close. I stopped needing his particular light. In fact, for the past few years I haven’t really thought about him. Two nights ago I sat up out of a sound sleep with TIM in my mind like a beacon. I’ve been thinking about him ever since…
He was Lauren’s favorite relative. When he died she had the Irish Blessing tattooed on her shoulder, and every year on the anniversary of his death she remembers… This morning as I think of Tim, I feel a strong bond. I haven’t cried for him in a long time, but I cried today. I now understand his battles with the bottle. I understand when he used to stare off into space as if he were communing with God or aliens or his own thoughts. I understand how very sad it is he lost his life, when he was about to start really living it.
I’m feeling a sense of urgency about this. I am worried. I hope he knew, all those years ago, he was my hero.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Today I’m not drinking because I’m remembering Tim…
How come you’re not drinking?