On Being the Black Sheep


It’s been five weeks since the death of my older (by two tiny years) brother, Richard.

aa-driptowelsOne mid-afternoon as I was visiting him in the ICU he easily slid into a nap. So I closed my eyes amidst a midafternoon’s bath of sunshine, until the first reel of a daydream began: It focused on a man-in-mourning transfixed! He watched as the Life Miracle slowly dripped from him like he was hung yet unwrung towels that became lighter and lighter as water continued to drain. A voiceover added that water is movement, and movement is fundamentally incapable of staying anywhere for long, especially where it: 1) Isn’t valued; and, 2) Isn’t wanted. I awoke startled, seeing a nurse tending to Richard. In hindsight the man in my daydream was me and I was there to observe dying, to witness the broken pipe my brother had become, and in his case, disinterested in repair, hopeless in patches, and instead, quit. Autocratically, decidedly, and determinedly.

Is autonomously dying rightful? If so, it’s hidden down deep in the fine print that no one reads except those searching for any way out like a trapped diver short of oxygen?

Clearly Richard found his karmic precedent and pursued his resignation with silent bravery and resolve. I’ve been told by childhood acquaintances who have remained in Milwaukee that they’ve overheard self-promoted clucking of crassly ignorant and insensitive hens quoting St. Peter himself, “Richard did not simply give up: The mere thought is preposterous and queerly unorthodox for a son as dedicated to his mother’s care. Give up? Just, quit? Not Richard . . . but that baby brother, the one that went to college . . . For eight years . . . then wouldn’t come home to his dying mother; oh no, had to live . . . in . . . Chicago with his pal . . . No, it’s something I’d expect from him, from the Black Sheep of that family. “aa-blksheep