A friend writes that a fellow who carried the last name I typically use may have a place in history some 150 years ago in the earlier-than-thought days of the War between the States. And another fellow carrying both my first and that last has found himself in trouble with the law. His a lesser offense than his brother. Oh, you boys! I can just hear them now with the uni-cultural slurs and poor grammar. Did you know that apple seeds do not share the same DNA sequencing as the branches from which they fell? Each fruit a wonder in itself, and not all delicious.
We are fast approaching an anniversary in the family. I have alluded to it in passed years, and although it revolves around a topic I pick at from time to time, so much so that I have grown somewhat self-conscious, these are not the reasons I have kept from a head-on.
We mark the passing of my younger brother, Michael.
Seven years from this coming Thursday, he was out on one of those central Illinois country highways, straight as an arrow, they are, for miles at a stretch. There was snow and ice. His middle daughter had called for help as she and a school friend had ended with his car in the ditch. Brother, rig and tow strap to the rescue, despite it being passed his bedtime.
Sometime earlier that day a young man had left work early to celebrate the new discovery that he would become a father. The festivities did not happen at home with family, nor with his expectant girlfriend, but in a bar. And another bar. Then another. Some six hours later he ordered some fried chicken livers to go.
I imagine him licking grease and crumbs from his fingers as he sped down the road, looking to see if any sheen was left on either index or thumb.
My brother did not suffer long. There were no good-byes or last messages; not from him, or none that were heard. Perhaps there would have been some utterance that could have been passed along had the driver stopped.
From my brother's good deeds and business, many knew his name, and word passed quickly through the county. The vehicle involved, washed and tarped, was quickly found out by future in-laws and negotiations with the Law began with a now-sober assailant.
One can wash a truck but one has a more difficult time wiping a truck clean. There's that. Ah, to establish that he was inebriated! No bar patron or owner would come forward. Yes, his presence was noted, yet as we know, everything else is subjective and therefore speculative. And denied.
It would take nine months for trial and sentencing. In that time much had been said on the TV and in the newspaper. Both families were in attendance. An elderly uncle of ours was hauled from the courtroom. The judge did his best, his remand rejecting a delay until after the holidays. And we were left to get on with our lives.
The young man served three years of (if memory serves me) a twelve year sentence. He has since married, divorced, fathered another child, remarried and been arrested for aggravated DUI. Bond was set to have him sit, and it is expected that he will return to prison when he is sentenced 32 days from today.
Although the gap narrows and the former draws nearer, I cannot muster a level of contempt to match the sorrow that persists. Perhaps this is why a expression of remorse always falls short: not because it does nothing to undo the deed, but because the pain one has caused is so horrible to imagine. Nor can I forgive, most likely from a similar dynamic of the brain, and any chance has diminished further with the new arrest. And to narrow the aforementioned gap further, I allow myself the thought that he could have done the same to another family, and may yet again.
But I cannot forewarn his next victim, just as an uncle makes a poor substitute for a father. I know of no way to invoke my brother's name or a memory of him without my DW or DM crying. I can only dream of walking into his jail cell to beat him to a pulp. It is an impotent rage that brews.
So the mourning intensifies. No sympathy from those who did not know him or love him will salve. Yet, I know this is unacceptable for me or the reader here out of generosity, so tomorrow I will sing my brother's praises in such a way that even strangers will feel the loss.