Ah the long weekend, so much to read! Of course you are thinking: I need more devastating, thoughtful, and poignant true stories of familial love and loss. Might we suggest a delightful pairing of Philip Connors and Cris Beam?
We tell stories about the dead in order that they may live, if not in body then at least in mind—the minds of those left behind. Although the dead couldn’t care less about these stories—all available evidence suggests the dead don’t care about much—it seems that if we tell them often enough, and listen carefully to the stories of others, our knowledge of the dead can deepen and grow. If we persist in this process, digging and sifting, we had better be prepared for hard truths; like rocks beneath the surface of a plowed field, they show themselves eventually.
The story of my brother’s life is complicated by the fact that in my earliest memories there is no such thing as him or me. My brother was born one year and nine days after me, and although I was older, I have no recollection of life before he arrived. Growing up on a small family farm, we were alone in our play, and before the age of five it was always Dan and me together, sneaking strawberries from the garden, building snowmen in the yard until the darkness fell and our cheeks stung from the cold, whispering in our bunk beds at night. We were more than accomplices, much more even than friends; we were all the other had.
When I found out that my mother was dead, I was enraged. Not because she was gone—for that I felt a slight uptick of relief. I was angry because nobody had told me earlier. I hadn’t known she was sick, hadn’t known there was a funeral, hadn’t been able to say good-bye. I had never known how to talk to my mother, but I wanted to say good-bye.
A lawyer had found my brother first to broach the news, and my brother had called me. This lawyer wanted us to sign some papers, but I called him directly to ask why no one in her family—in my family—had reached out to us. The lawyer turned out to be a friend of my mother’s. She had done his bookkeeping for years. He told me that the family didn’t know how to find us, his tone cool and professional. This, I said, was impossible. I am an author and a professor at three universities; a Google search of my name yields plenty of hits. For $1.95, you can see my last seven addresses and get a criminal background check thrown in for free. My brother has a website with an address and phone number on it. After all, the lawyer himself tracked us down.
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- nickrecommends said: Delightful pairing? If you’re speaking to the quality of writing, then of course, but otherwise, this pairing made me bawl so hard. That shit cray.
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- This was featured in #Long Reads
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