My brother Christopher Weatherwax died December 6, 2016. I feel him close quite often. You would have really liked him, dear reader. He had a sweet, tragic, too short life. I pray he is in peace.
When People Say I Wasn’t Close to My Brother Who Recently Died
It was true that Chris lived in Pennsylvania,
and I in Washington state.
He was eighteen years younger than me
and my half brother.
I saw him only once or twice a year.
Our lives were so different,
he a single man suffering with schizophrenia,
me a busy mother.
We didn’t exchange phone calls or texts,
emails or birthday cards.
remember Mom’s cheese quesadillas slightly burnt on the edges,
the metal baking sheet warping under the broiler,
cookie dough eaten raw from the fridge
The last time I saw him,
he was at a psychiatric hospital and doing better,
had a slight leg bob but looked straight at me,
intimately as we sat knee to knee.
My mother was bothering him to take a shower,
he’d lost weight and needed a belt.
wasn’t home the smell of dogs on carpet,
chlorine in the swimming pool, our overwatered lawn,
towels drying in the hot sun
He wanted to get a job stocking shelves
or work at a fast food place
and shared with the same enthusiasm
that I told him I am going to graduate school
and embarking upon a profession.
I didn’t feel pity for him, that his dreams of
travel and career had telescoped,
yes! I encouraged, our paths were as weighty.
we navigated knick knacks on every table top,
handmade quilts on beds and banisters,
Mom’s People magazines and shelves of novels
I resisted the temptation to reach out
and touch his hair, as I did when he was small
and had a blond halo of curls,
at thirty, it was short and light brown.
I could describe the hues in his blue/green eyes,
the intervals he would go outside for a cigarette,
that he held out hope the longest when his father/my step father
was dying of a brain tumor.
you had Mom’s beauty, your faces shaped like generosity
I was first breaking in her birth canal and had to be pulled with forceps,
you, last born, came out too quickly and barely made it to the hospital
Chris went with me to see the 9/11 monument,
we sat on the top of a double decker tour bus,
it was windy and we had makeshift plastic ponchos.
The Statue of Liberty across wet gray pavement,
across gray wet waters was a trinket,
we wanted her to loom larger.
At St. John’s church we lit red votive candles.
At the black chasms where the twin towers were,
where water poured endlessly,
we didn’t talk, but I took Chris’s arm,
let him lead me from one to another.
as teenagers we both didn't feel worthy enough,
escaped in books and television,
cigarette butts and bottles hidden in our bedrooms
I was not directly affected by his disease,
didn’t see his attempts to appease or quiet the confusion,
burning money or throwing away our mother’s crystal collection,
tossing the stones we both spent our childhoods contemplating,
rose quartz and pyrite, amethyst and obsidian.
they say you are at peace now, I thought there might
be a cure, it was difficult to manage you, I never had to
Chris called me Debbie after I insisted others use Deborah.
I let him, I liked it, I was his big sister again
and could keep him safe by reading a bedtime story,
he was just my little brother,
not a crisis, an issue, not a diagnosis,
not a tragedy, an addict, not dead on arrival.
He was an angel, as he is now
but with bigger wings, all love again,
closer than ever.