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April 2nd, 2019

2 April 2019 (Tuesday)
I apologize in advance for this post. There's nothing you, or I, or anyone can do about it. I'm just feeling more overwhelmed than I should about something and I'm hoping some rambling and venting will help. You... whoever you are who may be reading this today or in the future... are the lucky recipients.
My youngest brother phoned me today to tell me that our other brother, the middle one, Dan, died suddenly this morning. Nobody knows much yet. He apparently keeled over early in the morning. The people he was living with called an ambulance, but he either died or was pronounced dead at the hospital.
It's not a complete surprise - my brother has led quite a life, with alcohol and other substances playing a big part. His wife left him a several years ago, he let himself spiral out of control, lost his job, lost his house, and has been living with friends for the past year or so. The last times I tried to call him he didn't answer. He had pretty much cut off contact with everybody, except occasionally calling my mom or my dad to ask for money.
But it's still a shock. Your little brother isn't supposed to die. Your little brother certainly isn't supposed to die as a homeless, middle-aged guy.
And even though he obviously isn't... wasn't... a little kid anymore, and looked even older than his early fifty-something years, whenever I picture him in my mind, I picture the kid who was nine or ten years old.
We have not been in close contact for years, for decades even. But it's still hitting me harder than I would have expected.
One of the more fun things I have done over the past few years was to go on a hike in Canada we called the "Pillar of Darkness Expeditions." Prior to the second "Pillar of Darkness Expedition" in 2015, my wife and I stopped in Oregon to visit my parents and relatives. At that time my brother was still semi-sociable. Since he was in to camping and fishing and stuff, I asked him if he knew where to get kerosene lanterns for our upcoming hike to an ice cave. He said, "try Wally's (meaning Walmart), they usually have 'em." A couple of the lanterns and the lamp oil I brought on that trip were from Walmart per my brother's suggestion. He also shared with me at that time a story I had not heard, about he and a couple of friends getting trapped in a lava tube cave in Eastern Oregon for two days by a rock slide.
One of the lanterns I carried on those cave hikes came from my mom's house. It's one that we had when we were kids and took on one camping trip.
I'm not even sure why I'm sharing this on here. I don't mean to be a "bummer train" or anything. I'm more broken up than I would have expected to be, and I just feel a need to unload.
I haven't been what you'd call close to my brother since we became adults. Our lives took totally different paths. But all the "good memories" are flooding back from when we were kids and when we got along, and I'm missing that little kid. And I'm wishing I had tried harder to reach out over the past several years... or over the past several decades... and maybe tried sharing some of those memories from when we were kids to help him get back on track with his life. I know, realistically, it would probably not have done much good.
So yeah, I'm not expecting any "I'm sorry for your loss" kind of words. I mean, harsh as it looks to see in print, since I rarely spoke with him or saw him, his being gone won't really affect my day to day life at all.
But I'm realizing, today, when it's too late, how often I thought about him. How often I remembered stuff we did when we were kids. I was just randomly thinking a couple of days ago, as an example, of a hamburger joint we used to go to once in a while with my grandparents that claimed to serve "the world's largest hamburger," and I was laughing remembering that my brother, when he was nine or ten, insisted that he could eat one by himself... and he did it!
And then I'd think, whenever a memory like that popped into my head, "I should probably try calling him again," even though the last times I called he didn't answer.
Oh, and believe me, he was no angel. He's been a full-on asshole jerk to almost everyone in the family for a lot of years. But he could also be funny, smart, charming, and kind. You just never knew what you were going to get from him.
I'm realizing that there is a complex web of reasons why I'm taking this pretty hard: old memories, shoulda-coulda-mighta-done thoughts, experiences he and I shared that nobody else in the world who's still alive would remember or care about.
My youngest brother is six years younger. We don't have as much in common. For example, he has said that he doesn't even really remember my grandpa. He was too young to remember a lot of the stuff my middle brother and I did together, the games we played... you know, a million zillion things.
A million zillion things that are flooding back to me today, many of which I haven't thought of in years, and most of which nobody in the world knows or cares about except for me.
This doesn't make me special. Every one of the seven billion people on the planet has unique experiences and memories they've shared with other people that only they know or care about. And when the other people are gone, there's a real sense of... loneliness, I guess. Like you're the only one left who <i>knows!</i> Who could ever possibly <i>understand.</i>
There's a real sense of loss.
For example, my mom, of course, still remembers her parents, and remembers them when they became grandparents to us kids. But my brother and I, we are... were... the only ones who remember things we did with our grandpa, who died when I was in high school. Now that my brother is gone, I'm the only one who remembers my grandpa as being my grandpa, if that makes sense. So it's like, as we die off, the older generation, who live only in our memories, dies off, too.
My mom seems to be holding it together so far, but it's only been less than a day. My mom has been having a hard time of it lately, emotionally. She was an only child, so she hasn't lost siblings. But she's remained close to most of her friends from her high school years, and they've been disappearing at a rapid pace. All of her close friends but one are already gone. So she's losing all those shared memories. I don't even know how she's gonna react when the reality of my brother dying kicks in. I think she's still in an emotionally dispassionate denial phase. Maybe her practical way of looking at the world will see her through.
I have to stop now.

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