Friday, February 3, 2017

Redux: An Ounce of Blood

Today my brother Adam has a milestone birthday. He can tell you which one and while he's at it, he can tell you why he doesn't share his being born day with Pauxatawny Phil-but both of those are his stories. It is after all his birthday. I wrote much of what follows a long time ago, in honor of when he was born. I'll let you ponder that. Moving right along....

The law of averages being what it is and the population of earth being what it is, he's probably not the only one having a birthday, actually, I know he's not (looking at you, Claire). I don't especially care. And doncha love technology? Forty percent of the world went to bed hungry last night and we could feed 'em all. Instead, we invented a program that counts noses here on the big blue marble.

I am the oldest of six. Adam is the youngest. Sandwiched between us are three sisters and a brother, all of whom at various times did so much more than merely take up a seat in the Chrysler Newport station wagon and/or the Renault 10 as we traveled from who we were to who(m) we became.

Joan and Bill (Senior) are our parents. Mom lives in Florida. We buried dad a long time ago. At times, walking away from the grave is easier said than done and not all the promises we made to ourselves about who we were going to be when we grew up were delivered. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. 

Adam wasn't even yet a toddler when he was hospitalized as part of a medical safari of sorts that his pediatrician put him and my parents through in search of causes (and treatments) for a mystery he couldn't solve. Adam would stand in the crib and howl in pain until Yakky Doodle Duck came on the ward TV. I learned how to do the voices of all the characters to distract him. I still do them, except now to distract me.

Later, I dragged Adam to undergraduate classes while I was at Rutgers. He wasn't a mascot or a talisman or a babe magnet and he wasn't my show and tell. He was my guy. Those were exciting times, there was revolution in the air and I wanted to make sure he was a witness. After graduation, my class traded blue skies and air you could breathe for BMW's and stock options. Sell-outs, you say. Perhaps. I saved my receipt if you want proof. 

I recall a mad dash behind the wheel of that barge of a station wagon after discovering Adam was having a seizure on the couch in one of the eighty-five or so rooms in the ranch house we lived in, hurtling towards Saint Peter's Hospital in New Brunswick with this tiny person's jaws clamped tight on the thumb I'd jammed into his mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue. It was about then that I figured out the doctor in Highland Park was full of crap (I had long since concluded he was an a$$hole).

Somewhere and somehow I wandered off and away. Not all who wander are lost but many of us did while others stayed that way. Bob's your uncle but Jack was the role model. For decades I had the same contact with my brothers and sisters that those in the witness protection program have. I have to live with that. Didn't start out that way but stemming the tide is harder than riding it, even when you know it ends in the sea far from land. 

I always told myself there'd be time to catch up/make up for all the missed weddings, the births of children and in some instances, grandchildren (again, Adam's story to tell)--most of that didn't work out and my Air Force salute (shoulder shrug) became my silver bullet signature. Adam grew into the man he was supposed to be. 

He found Margaret, Suze, and Rob (who've each gone on to find their someone's and have their own stories to tell) and forgetting my (broken) promises of that armadillo from Texas and a penguin from Greenland (he was too smart to believe that one but too polite to call me on it), he invited my family to be part of his life on a very important day for him and his family and he remains my guy, often despite me. 

I've got lots of IOU's to redeem should the 'really big' reunion be held, and not all of them will or can be because redemption is rationed and rarely earned. There are bridges to rebuild and fences to mend with almost everyone with whom I grew up. That's for another day, maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's oh bright early as I post this and, speaking of early, I still hear Mom, on seemingly any morning for many years when we all shared the same roof, shouting 'Up and At 'em, Atom Ant!' (don't ask). He undoubtedly is already. All I can add is Ayup! and Happy Birthday!

Life is a beach.
-bill kenny

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