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

Summer’s Surrender to Fall



Moments after awakening, your verve ignites the hope of one more day of Summer and you fly from bed covers sticking your landing on chilling quarter-sawn floors like Mary Lou Retton. Skating across the frozen floor you throw open the curtains (as if they were silken chenille drapery hung casually in your Latin Quarter Pied-à-terre) waiting to be awash in dawn’s low-horizon sunlight.

Disappointed, the monotonous Gray Gang rolled into town minutes after midnight like lawless gunmen in frontier westerns. Intimidated townsfolk peeked through barren curtains and set about fortifying their modest homes: Searching for gaps in windows and beneath doors they stuffed the clefts with thick, woolen remnants similar to pre-dawn dog walkers that shelter themselves behind fleece and neoprene.

The liberated leaves figure-skate about my feet then streak skyward caught in a draft like summer kites and the floating dreams of a child:  All at once they’ve coagulated into knee-high tempests which zig and zag like adolescents chasing each other at noon time. Colors flash against skies of blue or gray or ashen citrine patch quilts. These October skies challenge the manufactured, yet awe inspired Independenceaa-leaves Day fireworks. The path, covered in a thoughtless arrangement of patterns and color like ballroom carpeting, have been crushed and watered and dissolved into an ingress of mislead and slippery shortcuts. In the day’s dusk, from afar the drained and disheartened scraping of pasted leaves to sidewalks which coincidently echoes the desperate sound of your repeated scraping of an overcooked and decoupaged fried egg from your sister-in-laws idyllic and maniacal “Panicured,” (the cookware’s equivalence of a mani-pedi).

That handful of cooled late summer sun slips through desperate fingers like sand, and jabs through gangways, half-naked trees, and slowly hibernating perennials. Yet each slice of sunlight reminds one of that perfectly chilled Cosmopolitan, sipped, as passers-by were evaluated, or that push-up pop and root beer float enjoyed during a devastating humid evening, or slightly and lightly limed key lime pie savored beneath Mrs. Landowski’s heirloom Sycamore that breezy summer afternoon. We hope we can squeeze just one more day of memories to keep our hope inflated, like the aa-boytireboy two doors down who’s anxiously and devotedly pumping a chronically flat rear tire is wholly disinterested in the waning blossoms and bye-bye of blue birds and tumbling bumblebees all which undoubtedly signify Summer’s surrender to Fall. But if we cease pining for what is lost and watch that boy two doors down, we might learn a lesson which the earth has known for eons:  Summer is but one season in four, four which may not be idolized as Summer, but which bring changes that tickle nature just like a favored uncle or aunt might’ve brought penny treasures which I adored.

And like the forever flattened tire that the boy two doors down finally acquiesced, try as hard as you might, we’re simply observers of a world that remains true to it’s own change of seasons, or, if you will, its life’s purpose.  What might our world be if we expressed an unwavering commitment to who we are and what we do?