My sweet brother—the one I always refer to in my writing as “my brother the priest”—who I took to the last reunion his high school class of 1943 will ever have, only weeks ago, passed away on Sunday, while I was in Maryland for a reading at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, at which so many old friends were present, among them the poets Doug Lang, Tina Darragh, and Lynne Dreyer, as well as Terence Winch, at whose home not only me, but my sons—one with his wife and son, the other my little one—all stayed with Terence and his wife and son, my heart was full, so much so that it only took an overwhelmingly humbling introduction by another poet, E. Ethelbert Miller, to bring the tears to my eyes, me, not often humbled by praise, if ever, and then tears actually fell when I read a poem about my father and Jackie Robinson, and another about my first love Bambi, both gone, while my littlest one and my grandson sat on the floor before the podium, at the feet of two nieces and their spouses, who were keeping the news from me until I was done reading and signing books and the audience had dispersed.
And then they told me to call my sister, the only one I have left, and she told me. A surprise and not a surprise. He had not been well, but not so much that I thought this would happen so soon. But he went on his time, ready to go, in his bed in the retirement home for old Franciscans, after asking the nurse to turn off the TV around dawn, a TV that wasn’t on, my nieces saying that was the angels in the room, come to take him where he longed to be, my sister saying it was our long gone parents and our siblings that have passed.
There were seven of us born to our parents, six growing up and making it to adulthood. Three left now, missing the oldest one tonight. But as my friend Terence said, quoting an old Irishman in a story he told me I half heard, but got the gist of: “Well, he’s got that tough job behind him now.”