My brother Ray stopped by unexpectedly this past Sunday just to shoot the breeze. Plus, he wanted to show me his first ever pair of eyeglasses he bought from the optometrist up at Sprawl Mart. He had been having vision problems of late and was diagnosed with diabetes and a swollen, barely functioning kidney. The doctors taught him how to give himself injections of insulin, in addition to a new, new diet regimen he should follow. The heart doctors had given him one diet to follow, and now heís got these updates to deal with. Still though, he was very optimistic about things.
Ray usually shaves his head bald, which makes him look like a mean Mr. Clean on steroids and too many burgers. Lo-and-behold, he removed his ballcap and exposed this fuzzy head of hair. He messed it all about and asked me what celebrity he looked like. Being that Iíve been busting his ball bearings from day one, I told him he looked like Andy Reid. And in Jints Country, them thereís fightiní words.
His smile faded and a frown emerged. Yes, I had told my lifetime Giants diehard of a brother that he looked like the coach of the hatedÖthe dreaded Philthydumpia Eagles. And when I finally smiled, he muttered something so completely offensive, I dare not repeat it on these electronic pages. So, he told me everyone else said he looks like lunatic extraordinaire Michael Moore. Suddenly, the Andy Reid crack didnít seem so harsh after all.
As far as the ball bearing busting is concerned, if he received anything less from me, Iím sure heíd be disappointed. Both he and my sister just love to tell the assorted nieces and nephews about what it was like growing up with ďUncle Mark.Ē Uncle Mark did this and Uncle Mark did that. I stand guilty as charged.
Yes, I once tied her to the back of my bicycle and forced her to keep up as I pedaled across Ansonia, Connecticut. Yes, I stole her Bay City Rollers album rather than have to hear it play one more time. But I returned it to her in 2005, so, get off my back.
As for Ray, he was a boy, so he was treated to boy-like stuff. Little things. Yes, I once split his forehead in two with a can of Right Guard. And, yes, I also found a whole other way to split his forehead open all over again. Yes, I painted a Kotex pad red, stuck it to his face and told him to go outside and play. Yes, it was funny, until one of the neighbors brought it to momís attention. Okay, yes! I pounded on him when he was but a giant toddler for leaving an uneaten, unwrapped York peppermint patty on my jean jacket under the hot sun at Guthrie Field. He deserved it. Heíll admit it. It melted clean through and left a permanent stain, man. On my jean jacket!
But, despite the many ways I managed to torture him, I was always there for him, and he knew I loved him. With my Momís limited financial means, his best birthday presents and his best Christmas gifts always came from me. And when he got past the toddler stage and became a full-blown sprat, he and his trusty sidekick Ron would sleep over practically every weekend and spend the time fishing down at the end of the yard. And he paid me the ultimate compliment by repeatedly introducing me to people as his brother/father, since his father was AWOL much like mine was before him. If you threatened me, he would make it a point to hurt you. If you hurt me, you needed something along the lines of the Witness Protection Program. His loyalty knew no bounds.
When his second step-dad decided to make with the child abuse bit, it was I that kicked that manís ass from one end of the house to the other and then back again. When he wanted the unique chopper bicycle, it was I that went out and bought it. I taught him how to fight. Very, very well, I might add. I taught him how to shoot straight. I taught him how to fish. I taught him how to leave and follow trails in the woods. I taught him how to cook. And I taught him how to just keep his chin up and press on, no matter what life through at him. Life through plenty at him, but he remained that same ole optimistic, big-hearted kid.
Despite not having the same father, never once did either of us refer to the other as being a step-brother. Iím not sure why that is, except to say that we were always, Öalways thick as thieves. His last name was this and mine was that, but we were brothers. And that was that.
He sent this e-mail my way on Tuesday night.
Being that Iím so busy with work right now, I didnít bother to reply to that e-mail. And here we are barely 2 days later and I am deeply regretting that move.
Earlier this morning, Ray passed away at General Hospital. Full cardiac arrest.
All thatís left now is to play brother/father to his ten-year-old son.