The next to last time I saw my brother was on august 1, 2001. Jenn and I were in the middle of a move and our new apartment in shambles, he’d left tons of lugging to us and disappeared (as he often did) and I went to look for him. From the boardwalk I saw a scant figure walking knee deep at the shore, looking out at the endless sea, rising up onto his toes every time the low tide came in. Exhilarated as I’d not seen him in decades, he approached the ramp and when he saw me he smiled. His pant legs were rolled up, but not high enough. I asked when the last time he’d been ‘in’ the ocean was. “Thirty years”.
I spun into a fairy tale summer in which he was living near me and enjoying the beach he’d grown up blocks from and liking himself and making respectable friends who cared about him and putting my parent’s delicate minds at rest. I flashed to teen me & twenty-something him going to smokey jazz clubs in the village and my jazz-phobic shell beginning to crack and to the years of ceremonial holiday meals where dad would be reading from the book or saying some prayer & he & i would slowly build into frenzied hysterics. These kodak moments filled me for a minute and for the first time in years i was hopeful that he would get his life back.
I’m reading a lot about being a father, and about how boys are different from girls and am learning a lot...not just as it pertains to my young sons, but about myself. My father. His relationships to me & to my brother. About what all boys need in order to have healthy emotional lives. About what goes wrong when they do not get it. Something went terribly wrong here.
Mom is unquestionably the big one (cutting the cord and all) and I miss my dad like crazy. But one expects that they will outlive their parents. And one expects that they will grow older with their siblings. I got ripped off.
He taught me how to play guitar and about the beatles & stones & beach boys & simon and garfunkle and about bach and boxing and side-kicks and aliens and civil rights and why (at all costs) I needed to stay away from cops. He tried to teach me math way beyond my grasp and sat on me (literally) when I tried to run to mom. “MOM….KIM’S TEACHING ME!”.
He told me that god would punish me if I tell a lie. Years later he told me there was no god. He bragged about me and came high to my gigs and told me he loved ME more than anyone in the world. I can’t see anyone ever telling me that again.
My poor, crazy, stubborn, gentle, brilliant, fucked up brother would have had another birthday today. I’m glad he was my brother. Just confused about the rest.
Kim Bennett Branitz 11/11/54-8/1/01