Tuesday, February 2, 2016

An Ounce of Blood

Tomorrow is my brother Adam's birthday. I wanted to steal a march on the celebrations that will be breaking out all across the Eastern Seaboard (you think I'm delusional? Wait until I get off my birthday pony and say that again) by borrowing some words I offered five years ago in observance of his actual Natal Anniversary. 

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. We are Sell-outs, you say. I cannot argue that point, as I saved my receipt in case proof were ever demanded. 

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 you pick your role models and I chose badly too often. For decades, I had the same contact with my brothers and sisters those in the witness protection program have. 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--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 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's bridges to rebuild and fences to mend with almost everyone with whom I grew up. That's for maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's oh bright early as I post this and, speaking of early, I 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 probably is already. All I can add is Ayup! and Happy Birthday!
-bill kenny

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