Dear Kevin – a Eulogy for a Dear Brother
If you receive this letter, it’s either because I’ve gone on to my reward in heaven, or you have, and I’m reading this as your eulogy. Either way, here’s some final thoughts and memories for you to keep in your heart.
My first memories of you were the little boy, always picking flowers for his mother, and trying to please her. That same little boy was always dragging a wagon behind him, yelling “Strawberries, Strawberries” for sale. Mr. & Mrs. Lutz would always lean over the fence and pretend to buy them from you. I suppose you picked strawberries to sell because you knew how much Mom loved her strawberries.
Later memories include the many times you and Lee would get into arguments and tussles in the basement, and Mom would yell at me for not keeping the peace. I suspect that’s where my “Mother Hen” moniker was born and fine-tuned for later in life.
One poignant memory was the day you ran away from home. I remember seeing you on the street corner, with a cigarette in your mouth and your suitcase at your feet. I remember stopping the car and asking what was up, and you asked me not to say anything to Mom and Dad. I kept quiet until later that night when it was evident that you weren’t coming home. I couldn’t give any more details as you wouldn’t give me any details of where you were going. As it turned out, they tracked you to Lee’s place in NC where he was in basic training.
Later that year, as we planned our wedding, it was planned for you to stay in our apartment while we were on our honeymoon. The purpose was so you had a place to stay away from Mom and Dad and could be in the wedding. We came home to find that all our wine in the wine rack was gone and the 4 or 5 stale fruit cakes from the year before had been eaten (that was the only thing in our fridge).
We visited you and Diana in Pennsylvania, and later received phone calls at 2 AM from you in Texas trying to figure out your own path. We’d answer the phone half asleep, and would simply grunt answers several times, as you talked your way through whatever it was you were trying to figure out. I apologize if any of those sleepy grunts sent you down the wrong path, but from our side with half-asleep brains, it sounded like you had worked out all your problems and we were just your sounding board.
As our adult lives progressed and our families were assembled and grown, the “mother hen” in me was always stretched to its limit trying to get everyone to get along with each other. This included trying to make peace between you and Mom.
Ever since Lee’s wedding, and the incident where Mary Embardino had asked mom which one she thought was harder to raise, and she honestly answered “boys”, the road between you all had been rocky. After all, if you think about it, her boys were harder for Mom. Lee had a broken leg in a cast when he was still in diapers, was rushed to the hospital with a gash in his head from a rumble with kids walking home from school, and he was an angry soul all during his teen years. Meanwhile, you had stretched her rules about smoking, having friends of color, and neither of you were easy to control. And not having control and protecting us from life’s trials was what Mom feared the most. I remember her expressing her fears of us being teenagers, when I turned 13. She made a comment to her friends about her fears, and I heard them and prayed that I would skip my teen years. Of course, that didn’t happen, but Joyce and I survived them by flying under her radar, and just telling her little bits and pieces that made her think she knew what we were up to. And since we both feared her and “boys” because of her attitude, we were goody two shoes. But I suspect, we both missed out on much of our teen years. And hearing my high school buddies stories now, I know there was a lot I missed. I was so naïve, and scared to try anything that Mom wouldn’t approve of. And while my path was a safe and prosperous one, I sometimes wondered if I really lived.
As our lives progressed, and our families grew, I really loved the close relationship you and I had developed. You were the one I came to when I was faced with the K/k issue and dealing with my own kids ‘ challenging teen years. We had grown the most alike in thoughts and temperaments, and we talked about all kinds of things. I loved the garden you created at the house, and would loved to be able to keep it forever. However, I knew from the beginning that my tenure of the house was temporary because of the financial burden it was. However, having the 3 years living together was also special to me. You and Holly were companions through some very challenging times in my life.
This time apart during the pandemic has been very cathartic for me, in that I realized that this has been the first time I’ve ever lived alone in my 69 years. After all, I was with the family until I was 23, then married to Ken until I was 56. Then had Adam for 6 years, and Angel and the kids for two more, then you and Holly for another 3 years. I had lived alone for 6 months in Colorado, but had Ken to talk with as he planned the move to be out there with me, so not really alone. The year between Ken and Adam had 6 weeks where Angel and the kids stayed with me as she and Chris were fighting. In addition, I still had the house and all Ken’s “stuff” in it, and was teaching both day and online at night, checking on Mom constantly, and still dealing with Ken and dating Adam. So never had time to be “alone”.
As I’m writing this missive to you, the pandemic is winding down, and all seniors are able to get the vaccine here, so things will be opening more very shortly. But in the meantime, I did get involved (yes even through the pandemic) in the senior center next door, and volunteered there on a regular basis by collecting contact tracing info on the members who come for activities. I’ve met a lot of people, made some friends, and now know some of my neighbors.
And my thoughts of you have been of concern and how you’ve survived this trying time. Hopefully someday, you will come out of your cave of pain to be able to embrace those that love you. Know that my love for you still exists, bro.
So life is moving along. I will periodically update this letter to you.
I had hoped to be able to share things with you again before either of us goes on to our great reward, but you’ve now moved on. Here’s hoping you are once again playing multi-solitaire in the sky with Mom, Dad and most of the Altoona crew. Don’t forget to bug them about the Steelers!
Love and miss you,
Your sister, Barb