My brother and I were only two years apart in age, but eons apart in life.
He’d learned early in life that he should gladly accept whatever is given to him, which was rooted in his broken-record-complaining about potato pancakes. Well, one morning he went too far and as though she’d lost patience with the broken record, my mother, shiner and all, spun around like a toy top, bent at the waist and got close, nose to nose close and screamed in the loudest and most unfamiliar voice, the kind of sound you’d hear, he said, coming up from the creek bed where they laid traps for raccoons; wailing, like it knew it was cornered by a .22 rifle. And then came deep, heaving sobs and an accusation, like a tattoo that stuck with him all his life, “You turn your nose up at everything I cook for you!” And then, he said, she stared at him blankly, and the torrential crying stopped with the speed of a cloud burst, and while she slowly turned away from him, he quietly climbed into the chair and forced down three potato pancakes amidst gags and tears.
And so year after year he played the hands dealt him; he lost more often than he won, but he never folded no matter which cards he’d been dealt.
And last Thursday I called him and knew something was dreadfully wrong: he’d suffered a severe stroke.