Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fourteen Years

Every time I look at this child of mine, I see my brother.
Gary and I returned from a night out to find our babysitter wide awake. This was unusual, as he mostly liked to lie on the floor with Gabriel and go to sleep. He looked at me and said, "Ms. Kristina, your mom wants you to call her as soon as you get home."

As any adult can tell you, a late night phone call is usually not good news. I expected to hear that my grandmother, who had been ill for years, had died. I was not expecting to hear that my older brother, at the ripe old age of 24 was missing. He had gone fishing, and when his ride returned to pick him up, his clothes, cigarettes, and the rest of his belongings were on the bank of the lake, and he was not.

Keystone Lake is well known for the number of swimmers' lives it claims each year. 1999 was the year it claimed my brother's. I knew, as well as my family did, that there was no hope he was still alive.

The next day, as we showered, I cried, and we decided it wasn't worth waiting. We would head to Oklahoma immediately. At the time, we lived in Pensacola, Florida, about a 14 hour drive away. We arrived outside Tulsa at about 7am Sunday, July 18th. We stopped at a gas station so that I could go to the bathroom, and I used a pay phone to call my parents. My uncle answered the phone.

My uncle went on to answer the phone during several distressing times for my family. When my grandmother died, it was he who answered the phone. When my father died, it was he who answered the phone. When he died, there was no one to answer the phone, and just like my brother's death, his death in a motorcycle accident was a shock.

During his funeral, Gabriel, not quite 2, provided a little comedic relief by saying, "Is it over yet?" I've never been one to like heavy funerals. I much prefer to celebrate the person we're also mourning.

Today, I don't mourn the man my brother was. He never truly had the opportunity to become a man. My brother was brilliant. I think he could have been great. But, I'll never know. So, today, I celebrate the wonderful things I do know about my brother.

He gave me my first haircut. Sure, I was only around 2, and my mother cried, but we did get to play barber.
He built wonderful treehouses, and let me help.
He never treated me like anything other than an equal.
He taught me to drive a stick shift.
He felt everything deeply.
He was an artist, a mathematician, a builder, and a comedian.
His sense of humor was wonderful.
He thought about everything.

I wish I could have gotten to know the man my brother was in the process of becoming when he died. So, here's to you, Frank III! Rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss. Regardless of the passage of time, I am aware of the sting that each milestone date brings.


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