Wednesday, December 31, 2003

478*

Ever since my brother died in late September I've had all of the siblings of the troops in Iraq on my mind. Like most of the Iraqi casualties, these folks didn't ask to be part of a police action / War, but there they are. Or, rather, there they aren't.

It's a tough day for me. I kept saying that I would 'put off' thinking about my brother until I felt I could handle it better - and today seems to be the day it's come home to roost. I think I needed to wait until after the holidays so I wouldn't be a mess in front of the kids and my mom (who doesn't need much of a push to send her over the edge - she's started chemo again and is looking better but feeling more tired than a few months ago)

The long lists I hear on the radio of those who've died since last January seem more haunting, pathetic, touching than in other years. I had said in my blog in early Septebmer, "What is WITH this year...?" - little did I know that the fellow who had been a companion since my birth - and who I had just assumed would be a companion through old age - would be leaving this life in a few weeks.

The thing about my brother was that no one could make me laugh as easily as he could - and vice versa. We found each other hysterical, even when no one else got the joke. My husband has much the same sense of humor, but Jim knew all of the early childhood references that could make me giddy with supressed giggles. We were a killer team at any Password-type game - we both have the same kind of mind (twisted).

I think no one could see through my brother the way I could. He enjoyed puffing himself up, I enjoyed letting the air out. That worked both ways. My brother told his wife once, "When I die please don't turn me into a saint like Mom has done with our father..." - which she reminded me of when I went to Texas for the funeral. I don't think she will, but my mother has already started the cannonization process on her only son. A kind of Methodist pieta. Or rather, Southern Baptist now that mom's changed her church.

I wanted to speak at my brother's funeral, but the minister said they didn't have time. He said he was afraid of people getting too emotional. I think the read reasons were twofold: 1) I'm not Baptist (I married a Jew, you know...) and 2) I am a woman.

The only person who spoke aside from the minister was Jim's wife's college roomate's husband. He may have known Jim through Karen, but he didn't really know the same Jim I grew up with - silly, star-treck loving, chevy impala driving, bob seeger fan Jimmy (no one could call him that but me!) His only reference to my relationship with Jim was to comment that, although Jim and I had our differences, deep down he was proud of me. That smarted a bit - it made it sound like Jim and I didn't speak, or had no connection. We had a profound connection, but not one that was easy to see.

It's a shame, really, because the warts and the foibles of our personality are what make us lovable. To forget the problems, the difficulties, is to somehow diminish the true memory of someone. Looking at these things straight on, and learning from them, is how we grow as human beings.

Now that Jim has died, and my cousin Tommy the year before, there are no more men left with whom I grew up. [Tommy was my Aunt Wanda's son - she died a few weeks before Hannah was born and that was a terrible blow. Wanda was more like a 2nd mom than an Aunt - her daughter Jan is really more of a sister than a cousin, and Tommy fell somewhere between cousin and uncle (he was 24 years older than I)]

Oh, my - what a sad post!

Ah, well, perhaps tomorrow - the first day of the new year - I'll feel better and write something witty or at least glib. Tonight I'm going to sit at home with my husband, drink some champagne, eat some strawberries and watch the third season of the Sopranos on DVD (we don't have cable so I catch up once a year...) Oh, and knit. Knit on Kerrie's project, as a matter of fact.

Thanks to everyone who's posted comments this year (good and bad!) and thanks so much for all of the supportive email I've received from readers of my blog.


*This is the number of troops killed in Iraq since the start of the police action in March.
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