Daddy disappeared from our lives one November night after a high school football game. My older brother and I were both in the school bands. He played trumpet for the high school; I played flute and piccolo for the junior high group. It was homecoming in that little central Florida town, and both bands had been on the field at halftime.
My older brother got home first. He may have even called the ambulance. I arrived to see our father unconscious, strapped to a gurney with emergency medical people on either side, rushing him from the house to an ambulance, working on his dying heart. And then he was gone. Vanished. Without a word of hope or farewell.
Some years ago, while living in Atlanta, I had a chance to meet a founder of the hospice movement. We talked about the value of being able to say good-bye. He told me that when the death of a loved one comes unexpectedly and suddenly, with no chance for any type of preparation, it can take the average person twenty-five years or longer to reconcile with the event, to find a way to say good-bye. It has been forty, and I’m still working on that.
I have written before of the emotional equivalent of a nuclear winter that descended on our family that night. We never talked enough about it; barely spoke of it at all. Just numbed out. Since then, it has been the proverbial “elephant in the room” and I think, in the way innocent young kids often do, we somehow felt responsible. As adults, my two brothers, two sisters and I love each other — no doubt — but communication has always been very uncomfortable. We have never broken through it.
Until now, maybe.
My older brother and I e-mail occasionally, a vast improvement over the years where neither of us wrote or called. A couple of weeks ago, in an e-mail, I impulsively told him about my blog. Afterward, I thought,”What have I done? What on earth was I thinking?” This is the natural reaction to full and open communication with each other, sadly.
His reaction, reprinted here from his comment on my post, Hot Bricks In a Shotgun House, caused spring to bloom in that nuclear winter corner of my heart.
“You forgot the best part. Standing in front of the crackling fireplace in the living room, wrapped in a blanket and turning as if we were on some invisible rotisserie until all sides were smoking. Then, the dash across the “shotgun” hallway with the biting wind penetrating the blankets as if they weren’t even there. A leap into the feather bed, the bricks and near instantaneous dreams of yet-to-be realized adventures we knew would arrive with the dawn.
I miss you, my Sister. Love you.”
Posted by: Wally Jones at 09:19 PM December 4, 2003
Oh, my Brother. I love you, too.