Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elegy is the word that comes to mind, yet may be as inadequate as its close cousin, eulogy, to honor the honorable. Yet, let me set the scene.

First, there is the connection, a subtle bonding between brothers made stronger by a notion that we shared certain features found missing with the other siblings. Speculation was reinforced by a segregation that went beyond a preference for the gentler of our species/siblings, and we therefore sought comfort in our proximal appearance and ages. We were the first: that much we knew.

There came a time when my heritage came under closer scrutiny and it was revealed that our intuitions were not so idle. When the time came for both of us to have that knowledge, the bond became even stronger.

The split in bloodlines was more than in a name, Bastin, if it can be called a division at all. Siblings are siblings and emotional attachments spring from that concept. No, again, it was the segregation that overrode. Even so, to return to the apple tree from yesterday’s post, each responded in his way.

I was helping install drywall in the garage of the new house Mike had built, his second one, and this one twice the size of the former. A local friend of his was helping.

—So, you’re Mike’s younger brother?

—No, I’m older by eighteen months.


He showed some surprise, perhaps embarrassment at his presumption.

—Hey, it’s OK. Funny how things seem one way, eh?

It may have been my longish hair rather than the aging process, Mike working for the State Police at the time as the lead man for their D.A.R.E. program. A man’s man, hunter, fisher, builder. Black belt. Wrestled a bear. Rode a bull. Broke his neck but didn’t know it for twenty years. Quit the State Police to open a used car lot.

What? A used car salesman?

I’m going to jump ahead a bit. Actually, to the end again.

The plans were to have the wake and funeral ceremony at the funeral home. Someone with more forethought than grief anticipated that the funeral home might be too small for the next day’s crowd. After all, the waiting line for the wake was three and a half hours long.

I stood next to our mother, greeting people first. I did not count, but I can tell you many people said something along these lines: I’m not a friend of the family, but your brother sold me a car when no one else would. He was a fair man. He gave me a chance.

Oddly, I shed a tear after writing that last bit. I see these people, the husband and wife, his hat in hand, and she a step behind. Their lives had been changed for the better  for knowing my brother, and they grieved for a world that had just gotten a little harder.

Mike did his own repos. He had a job to do, an agreement to keep, and it was only between him and his client. There was a bit of cavalier cowboy to him as well as all-around nice guy.

The funeral was held at the local Catholic church, a sizable room to sit 500 and still have room for those who had to stand. The State Police provided traffic control, a color guard and pipes. One of his fishing buddies, also a State cop, told of the “Mikey” he knew, a man comfortable with a discussion of the best way to field dress a bear, all the while knitting to pass time on their annual treks to Canada. Over the years, they managed to have the Mounties called on them a couple times.

I am not comfortable speaking in front of large crowds. I ramble and stutter, and on this occasion I might very well sputter. I knew I had to say something about my best fishing buddy (though I could not endurance fish like he could), my constant companion as a youth, the little brother I looked up to. I wanted everyone in the church to have a chance to share something as well, so as the tears began to well, I gave the crowd instructions, and on the count of three, everyone yelled at the top of their lungs, “Thanks, Mike!”

I am told he heard us.


Crash said...

I don't think you want comments. Just want you to know I care about this.

NT said...

Thank you for sharing it, grief and all.

bastinptc said...

Thanks. Not sure I'm done yet.

Memphis MOJO said...

Regarding comments,I'm like Crash.

TenMile said...

Attention On Deck!

Carry on, Gentlemen, as the Captain walks through.

In a whisper: "What's up with him, Chief?"

Normal voice: It's his ship, Seaman. If he wants you to know, he'll tell you.

Anonymous said...


Novels have been written with it as its subject.

The thing that a grieving mother once told me that explained her black dress after ten years of her son's death was, "At the meetings with other parents who lost their children the ones who were the most in pain were the parents who them as babies. Because no one else had met their babies. It was an almost hermetically private grief."

Hermetically private grief is the most painful. By sharing your grief, by imposing on your readers, by telling them this is painful to me. That is a sensible thing to do.