In retrospect, everything seems very pointed.
Bobby was very special, very needy, and very neglected.
I was always “busy” (with honestly trivial matters) and didn’t make him a priority.
It is clear, now, that he was truly my childhood best friend, the constant companion I laughed and argued with, the face next to mine in Polaroid pictures and photographs from one-time use, disposable cameras, the high-pitched voice that joined in with mine in home-videos of Christmas day and Thanksgiving night and trips to parks, zoos and the aquarium. He was my brother, my friend — an influence on and a reflection of me. He was loving, he was kind.. he loved me, he loved spending time with me. I liked spending time with him, too.
And then I grew up, and he stayed young.
We came to a sort of crossroads when I was about thirteen. He wasn’t going any further and I had to keep on moving. That’s where his mind seemed to stay while mine began to change and to drift; to mature.
He continued to ask if we could go to Chucke Cheese for his birthday, continued to whine as he, mom and I drove past a GameStop and she tried to explain to him that just because she had a checkbook didnt mean she had money. He continued to watch Nickelodeon cartoons and Disney shows, continued to go days without showering, continued eating twizzlers and Flintstones push-up pops for breakfast..
he loved being a kid.
Meanwhile, I started asking for money or musical instruments for birthdays. I submitted a job application at one of our local supermarkets. I started watching reality television shows and began to care about my clothes, my acne, my smell, and my appearance in general. I wanted a social life. Bob wanted me to stay home to watch TV and play Yahtzee with him.
I walked out the door, and his world became very small.
It’s funny, how you realize things too late and do things backwards.
Bobby, my only brother, died on Friday. 11 days ago. May 11th. Around 3 PM eastern time. After having three seizures and choking on his own vomit. The seizures left him lost in a horrible state of unconsciousness, where he found himself unable to clear his throat, unable to breathe, unable to be resuscitated, unable to keep his heart alive. Perfectly helpless. My mother, who hurt her back trying to catch him as he fell to the ground and who put her mouth to his cold, dying lips in an effort to revive him, says that he was completely out of it and felt no pain. I like to believe that she’s correct. I hate the sick, twisted way that God and fate and nature made a combination of events that was so deadly. The seizures alone wouldn’t have killed him. Throwing up what is now his last meal wouldn’t have killed him, either.. but the combination of the two.. how horrendous. How terrible, humiliating, and depressing. How preventable. He should still be here. I’ll never understand.
My childhood companion, my shadow, my best friend, my brother.. the brave little boy who battled CANCER and WON, who underwent radiation and chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants to eradicate the tumor in his brain. Bobby.. who would flirt with the nurses who brought his IVs and coloring books and who gave him the shots that he smiled at. “I’m sorry,” the nurse would say quietly, “this might hurt a little.” “No, it’s okay!” He’d assure her. “I like it!” I always mused that the hospital staff probably thought that Bobby was a very sarcastic little man. But I know Bobby.. he really did mean it. He liked the shots. He didn’t mind anything that the nurses or doctors had to do. He loved being the center of their attention.
Again, I remind myself, Bobby is gone. Bobby, who beat the cancer but was never quite the same person. Bobby, who developed epilepsy as a teenager and got stuck on so many growth-hormone and anti-seizure medications that his weight gain was out of control and his balance was permanently impaired. Bobby.. who had such a nice smile and the most loud, contagious laugh.. is gone, out of my grasp, out of my reach, forever. The thought is overwhelming. The truth is unbearable.
And now, suddenly, everyone wants to see him. People want to fly out for his funeral. People want to write cards and post honorary statuses and pull out old pictures of him, to smile and cry at the same time and to appreciate how “special” he was. People begin to miss him.
And now, suddenly, I want to pick up the phone and call him one more time. I want to call, from another state 600 miles away, and remind Bobby that I’m his sister, I love him dearly, I’m coming to Tennessee for a week-long vacation in just a few months and I can’t wait to see him again.. I want to ask him about his favorite shows and tease him about how much Dr. Pepper he drinks and my guitar playing that he hates. I want to remind him of that time when I stuck up for him on the school bus when a (insert female dog) named Alicia called him retarded and stupid, in the front yard when a kid asked me if he could throw stones at MY brother, in the grocery store when someone was staring rudely at his helmet, at that restaurant when he threw up his cheese fries and people made faces, in the gas station when he had a seizure and knocked an aisle display over, in the livingroom when everyone was shaking their heads and lecturing him about his horrible eating habits, at the park, on the sidewalk, in the car..
It’s funny how we do things backwards.
Bob, are you listening? Can you hear me? I can’t believe you’re gone.. it hurts so much to write it, to read it, to say it or hear it that I’m ignoring it. Instead, I’m just pretending that you’re still in another state, 600 miles away. I picture you sitting in your favorite brown recliner at Grammy’s house, with your pot of jolly ranchers, gummy worms, rolos and starbursts next to you on the table. You’re wearing your helmet, which makes me glad because you’re safer that way. “Camp Rock,” your favorite movie (at the moment), is playing on the TV, and when your favorite songs come on, I can hear you humming along and I can see you nodding your head and tapping your foot. You’re wearing black velcro shoes, like always. Even when we went to Clearwater Beach last summer you wore those shoes. Remember mom buying you those funnel sticks from the cafe inside that little gift shop ? You seemed to enjoy them.
Anyways, now you’re getting tired, so you’re turning the TV down and pulling the lever on the side of your chair. I watch you recline and rest your head on the back of the chair. You fold your arms and tuck your hands into your armpits. You cross your feet (shoes still on), clear your throat a little and close your eyes. Camp Rock continues to play softly on the television screen. The bowl of desserts lies still on the table beside you. The chair is still brown. You’re helmet is still on.
Hey Bob, remember that Chucke Cheese gift card I mailed to you last December for your 23rd birthday?
I’m really glad I did that.
I love you, Bob. I love you bro.
I’m coming to see you soon, Bob..
I miss you Bobby.
I read former journal entries about life at home and Bobby is mentioned only on occasion, like if he thew up on the table at Cici’s or got mad at Gram and threw a plate at her. Otherwise, Bobby’s name isn’t written. I read more recent entries about the vacation that Christopher and I took to Florida last summer and I didn’t even mention Bobby once. It was like he wasn’t even there.
He was though; in my memory, I recall sitting on a couch beside his recliner and making small talk. I remember taking him on a special trip to Congo River, his favorite mini golf course, and I remember hugging him goodbye at the end of the trip. Why was none of that important enough for me to write down?
I wish I could remember the things that he said, the foods that he ate, the times when he laughed, the times when he was quiet and I should have been talking with him. What kills me the most is the lost memories.. not the ones that would have taken place in the future, but the ones from the past. The ones that never evolved, the ones that never developed — the ones that were never realized.
I drove Bobby to the gas station multiple times a week so that he could buy a fountain drink. He loved getting out and he loved something about bringing his big (BIG) cup to the gas station, filling it to the very top with ice, and pouring “fresh” sugar-water into it, up to the brim, sometimes to overflowing. I always found where the napkins were and cleaned up quietly after him.
I drove Bobby from Florida to Alabama four summers ago. It was just us together in a car for 10 hours.
I drove with Bobby to church, when he would go; I rode with Bobby to Chucke Cheese, when we could afford it.. but I can’t remember any of the things we said.
Maybe our conversations just weren’t memorable.. or maybe there just wasn’t conversation.
Did I take time to engage his mind?
Did I ever ask him how he was feeling, what he was excited about, what he was looking forward to?
I’m sure that I did, I know that I did..
but I don’t think that I realized, then, the significance of the words in his responses and how much remembering them would mean to me today.