What is left
“A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.” — Edward de Bono
I’ve written very little here about my younger brother Al. I guess there are a lot of reasons why. As he is my only younger sibling, I’ve always felt a stronger need to protect him, however illogical that impulse has been. Al’s life has been difficult, for him and for those who love him. But in our teenage years, I never would have dreamed it.
Tall, athletic, talented, good-looking and witty, Al seemed to have everything going for him. People used to say he had the world by the tail. I never knew anyone with a brighter future ahead of him than Al appeared to have in his youth, and looking back at those days, I cannot laugh over the happy memories without feeling at least a trace of sadness.
Al was only five when he and my older brother were injured in the car crash that nearly killed my mother and sister, and it surely must have traumatized him as much or more than it did the rest of us. For all of his studied bravado as a young man, I now realize that much more must have been going on inside him. It’s ironic that it was a drunken driver who hit my family’s car and left lasting scars on us all, most of which cannot be seen with the eyes.
In recent years, I’m happy to say, Al has been doing well, and has been an invaluable help and companion to our aging parents. Maybe that’s why I can finally talk about him and the huge role he played in my childhood and young adulthood, without being overcome by sorrow. He was the sibling closest to me in age, and when our older brother and sister left home, Al and I ended up spending a good bit of time together. While there were all the usual squabbles, there also was a lot of joy as we shared music, jokes and serious conversations.
I couldn’t talk about Al without talking about his lifelong friend Don. Long before Wayne and Garth, or Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures, there was a zany planet inhabited by Al and Don, where they spoke their own hip (though esoteric) language, and kept me in stitches with their hilarious parodies of everything imaginable. During a time in my life that was full of insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, I could always count on Al and Don to make me laugh no matter what else was going on. Though they have seen each other relatively seldom in adulthood, Don’s friendship, which has remained steadfast and unconditional, has been a point of stability in Al’s life, and I will always be grateful for that.
I’m also grateful for Al’s wonderful sons, and many other gifts that remain with him, as my siblings and I grow ever-closer to what is known as “old age.” Al can still make me laugh until I cry, and while our adult years may have held more tears than laughter, de Bono is right about all of those youthful fun times. They will never unhappen, and the memories are a blessing.
What memories will never unhappen for you? What lovely mental snapshots do you linger over when you turn through the pages of the scrapbook in your imagination?
One year ago today: