Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Birthday Big Bro

Today would have been my Big Brother's 60th Birthday.  I think about what I would have done today if he was still here - probably onlibe looking for a horrifically tacky and politically incorrect floral bouquet to send him (teleflower, you are MUCH too tasteful, all you have  are beautiful flowers in lovely arrangements, I couldn't find anything involving cactus, spent brass and a fart cushion.).  If I'd been able to visit him where I would have made his favorite cake.  He baked one for me one time when he was a teen - it was burned on the outside and raw in the middle  - apparently in "doing the math" he thought if 45 minutes at 300 F was good, 20 minutes at 500 was even better.  Dinner that went with it was egg rolls and Tater Tots. But I loved him for the effort. By the time e got into his 20's though he was a good of a cook as I, though he went to his grave with his recipe for Bullie Beans (with tequila, I'm sure of it) refusing to give it to me until I gave him his Rat Fink ring back, a much beloved joke between us).

He always did something special when I came home, balloons for my bedroom, a gallon of my favorite Tillamock Marionberry ice cream in the freezer, a card.  Always.

I know if I could turn back time and see him again,  I'd hold him close in a hug, even though he towered above me and was twice my size, telling him I loved him and he'd tell me back, for he never had a hard time with those words.

So for tonight - I'll raise a toast and share a chapter from Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption which is as much about he and I as my having a child and giving her up.  This months proceeds from both books are going to the Ontario SPCA .

That's Ontario Canada, not California, an organization some friends are part of.
Chapter 49 - Lifespan

I tried to visit Dad as often as I could in those first weeks after we lost my brother. He wished to remain living in his home, so a home health nurse was hired to provide full time in-home care and drive him where he needed to go. I had mentioned his getting another dog---but he was having difficulty standing up, so a dog that had to be let out would probably not be a good idea.
But Dad has had a number of rescues over the years, the last being a Dalmatian named Ashlee. When he got her he was 90 and the dog was almost 12. There was no telling who would outlive whom; but he was so happy to have that four-legged friend to share his big old house with.
But with good quality food and regular veterinary care, Ashley the Dalmatian lived two very comfortable years with her; and Dad at 94 now is doing better than average.
Think about it. As a society we now live decades longer than our ancestors. I remember reading the book Alaska by James Michener; in the opening chapter, there in the dawn of time they speak of "the Ancient One," a woman who was a great healer and spiritual leader. She was in her thirties. Oh great, I thought as I read it, first the big three-oh, now I'm ancient.

These days most of us can expect to live well into our seventies and eighties, some even into their hundreds. Yet some creatures live only months or even days.
Late one fall a cricket moved into my garage of the house. Night after night he chirped away on the other side of my bedroom wall. Leaving the garage door open a bit didn't encourage him to leave, only to have a party with some of his bigger friends. I was able to shoo them out, but he hopped into a little crack to hide so he could continue to serenade me. After a few nights of that I was wondering as to ways to dispatch him. (Would using a silencer on a cricket be illegal or apropos?)

I did a little checking online---apparently
the life span of the average field cricket is just a couple of months. Already an adult, he likely had only a few weeks to live, if that.

The poor little guy wouldn’t even make it to Halloween; but each night he sang as if he would live forever. I didn't have the heart to capture him and move him outside. He could stay safe in my garage as my pet cricket. I named him "Mort."

Consider the hummingbird: such a small creature with such a high metabolism, yet it has a life span much greater than you'd think, with some living more than a decade. I watch them from the feeders in summer, warring for the liquid nectar found within, fending off others that wish to take it; watching, guarding, always wanting more of life's sweetness. No different than what we want.
I think of lives cut short that achieved so much for their brief time here, like my favorite poet John Keats, who threw over medicine to write some of the most sublime odes in the English language and died at 25 from tuberculosis; Percy Shelly; M.F. Xavier Bichat, French army surgeon turned pathologist; Évariste Galois, mathematician and inventor of group theory who died at 20; Robert Fergusson, Scottish Poet; Saint Albertus Magnus. Their words, their teachings still follow me where I go, whispering to me in unexplored depths or darkest of nights---such great thoughts tinged with wonder and mystery, those whispers of slain genius.

Fortunately our human life span is much longer than most creatures’---if we are blessed and take care of ourselves. But even the greatest expanses of time seem so short in recollection. Walking through the little village where I live, the sidewalk glinted with little bits of mica. Not the prophet Micah who told us our human task is to do justly, but the geological kind. As a kid, the sidewalk would glitter like broken glass upon the tide flats from the small glints of mica within it. My brother said it was made of broken starships, and I believed him. For though there are limits to what we may accept as children, there is no limit to what we can believe, nourished as we are by the embrace of the incredible that is found right beneath our feet.
Into the warm days of fall that is childhood's longest hour, in those weeks of summer vacation we believed we'd live forever. We weren't content just to ride our bikes on these glittering trails of star-stuff; we'd get big pieces of chalk and drew on them, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, our names. We'd play well into the dark, coming in only when we were hungry, the front doors unlocked to our comings and goings---time for us was something we could pick up and put in our pocket.

When I go home and my brother’s laughter is silent, there is no weather of distance between that time and now. It seems like yesterday. But I have realized that the saying is true: man does carry his life in his hand. My dad's siblings, though blessed with a hardy disposition, also possessed an intrepidity of spirit and courage that might have been called reckless in others; but in them it was a natural trait when tempered with a soundness of choice. They honored their bodies as vessels of God and didn't abuse them with drugs or an excess of alcohol or even food. In the pictures I have of them together I see only lean, honed strength and purpose of duty.
I look at a collection of bones on a table, beautiful to me in their pristine immobility. I look at a glass box my aunt left me that sits on my desk. In it is Urania ripheus, more commonly known as the sunset moth, hovering on lifeless wings that glow in the light as if lit aflame. The sunset moth is found on the shaded areas of river banks in Madagascar. The essence of life floats elusive, half submerged in the waters of science, buoyed by God. I've spent the last fifteen years studying the many tragic ways life ends; and still I draw great comfort for the way it fights to remain.

Somewhere a thousand miles away, meal time drawn to a close, Dad will be in his recliner reading that old family Bible, the book for all the days remaining. Dad never knew his destiny would be to live to great age, to love deeply, outliving children and two wives. A love that entranced him and made him its own to the most secret of thoughts, to the disquiet of blood, to his last exhalation. He did not know his destiny but he followed it with unfaltering footsteps. The Bible is gently laid in his lap as he nods his head for a nap. The winter window fades, then glows---a living spark there among the shadowed embers as at his feet lies an empty dog bed.


  1. You truly have a way with words... And I'm sure your brother is looking down on you and smiling tonight.

  2. As long as you remember your brother, he is not truly gone. Some of him remains with you.


  3. Not marble nor the gilded monuments
    Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
    But you shall shine more bright in these contents
    Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
    When wasteful war shall statues overturn
    And broils roots out the work of masonry,
    Nor mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
    The living record of your memory.
    'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
    Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
    Even in the eyes of all posterity
    That wear this world out to the ending doom.
    So, till judgement that yourself arise,
    You in this, and dwell in lovers eyes.

    - The Bard of Avon

    You give him a run for the money.

  4. Dusty in here.
    Better call my brother.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..