It’s been a week now and I still can’t really believe it. My brother had a heart attack on the 10th of May and while his heart was repaired, complications ultimately led to his death. I’ve thought about a lot of deaths — anticipating my parents’, imagining the loss of friends, considering my spouse’s when I was married, even thinking about my own. Of all the deaths I’ve ever considered, Dale’s was one scenario I never imagined.
He was my little brother. It’s not supposed to work that way.
As kids, we were close. Only three years apart, we mostly got along although I was ultimately responsible for several scars he had to live with. Our childhood house was laid out such that we could run in a loop through the living-room, kitchen and hallway and I would often get him running, playing tag, and then suddenly change direction, causing him to skid along the linoleum in the hall and more than once smash into furniture. Eventually, my parents changed the furniture around so there were fewer hard corners to hit.
Our bedrooms were across from each other and had no doors, just curtains. Many evenings we’d stage whisper to each other across that hall
“No, you come here!”
This would continue until one of us would run across the hall to the other bedroom to talk or play or whatever, waiting for Mom to holler at us to go back to bed.
We’d play in the basement, building LEGO or lining up Star Wars figures in rows at the bottom of a big sheet of plywood we’d propped up, then we’d fling Hot Wheels cars at them to see who could knock down the most figures at once. As adults we looked back in horror at the simultaneous destruction of what had become collectibles, but at the time it produced a lot of laughter.
We learned not to play Monopoly (both of us were board-flingers and poor losers) but we had an arsenal of other board games — Full House, Game of Life, and Payday got a lot of play — and as we got a little older, we played through some of the first modules of Dungeons & Dragons with other kids in the neighbourhood.
Gradually we grew apart as teenagers, each having our own friends and as adults where our ideologies evolved into the polar opposite of one another. We had few “safe topics” for conversation, but we still stayed in touch. We visited when we could, though it was pretty rare, and talked on the phone every couple of months. Knowing I will never hear him say “Hey, Sis” on the other end of the phone has been particularly hard.
I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks reflecting on the relationship we had and the life he had. I think he had a pretty good life. I don’t know if I ever told him how proud I was of what he’d accomplished but I was. There were plenty of times he made me angry, too — he never shied away from sharing an opinion and we usually disagreed — but I’d give anything to have just one more argument if it meant he was still here.