Today would have been his 58th birthday. My brother Earl, my best friend, the one person I could totally be myself with and he with me, bowed out of this life six years ago. He was born on Pearl Harbor Day and died on Father's Day. Six years after his death it still hurts me to talk much about it. On the day he died I told my family I would miss him every day for the rest of my life, and that has been the case.
Ever since I can remember whenever my mom would talk about how much she loved her kids she would always say that if anything ever happened to one of her kids she would have to be put away in the "crazy house."
And then that dreaded day came.
When Earl's wife called me early that Sunday morning, awakening me from a blissful sleep, to tell me he was dead - a massive heart attack in their bed at the relatively young age of 51 - the first thought I had was: "This is going to kill Mom." And indeed that is what I told his wife. In all the frenzy that followed the failed attempt by his youngest son to revive my brother with CPR and the mad rush to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, she was unable to locate my mother's phone number. I was glad it was she, not me, who broke that news to Mom. I followed up a couple of minutes later with an attempted phone call to Mom to comfort her - but of course she was inconsolable. I got to make the phone call to my younger brother, who upon seeing my number on his caller ID at that ungodly hour of the morning thought it must be something wrong with Mom. He was stunned when I told him about Earl. In short, we all were in shock.
But this is the day of his birth, not his death, so I should make his life rather than his death the focus of my post.
How can I even attempt to put into words the hole his death has left in my life?
He was noted for making phone calls at odd hours. He would wake me out of a sleep, catch me as I was about to head to bed ... I never knew when he might call. He would always say, "hey, if I can't sleep, neither can anyone else." The phone calls always began after I said "hello" with his familiar deep voice intoning "hey, man" and off we would go, usually for hours. And when he was finished he was just as quick to say "I gotta get off here." And that was it until next time. God, how I miss those calls! How many times I have needed them!
My parents divorced when I was eleven. It was my older brother who then became the adult male figure in my life. I was around him more than I was Dad for most of those troubling teen years. We were close from the beginning. He taught me about baseball. He was an amateur statistician and tried to educate me about the wonders of mathematics. That was a task because math has never been my forte. It was he who gave me the most valuable info about the facts of life. He introduced me to Greek mythology. When I joined the Golden Gloves boxing program as a teenager, it was he who told me I was probably wasting my time seeking to be a boxer. He rightfully discerned that I lack that killer instinct. He was a freethinker before I was and most probably died a Deist. However, that was something we didn't talk a lot about until after I started my journey and got with him about God thoughts I was having. If there was any subject he didn't think deeply about and that we didn't discuss at least once, I'm unable to think of it right now.
I looked up to him from my youth and tried to emulate him. It was much later, only after I not only grew up but began to grow older, that he confessed to me that there were certain things about me that he had always admired: my calm levelheadedness (he tended to be overly dramatic and a hothead, like Mom), my determined consistency, things of that sort. We grew closer over the years and were true confidants, true friends.
On this anniversary of his birth, I miss my best friend ever in the world. There are so few things that can bring tears to the eyes of this jaded little fellow. Thinking about how much I miss Earl always does.