Saturday, August 25, 2007

NPR - To my brother Greg

My older brother Greg passed away August 21, 1991. It was an eventful day all the way around, as I realized later. He overshadowed me throughout our lives. He was 6-plus years older, the first born. Our parents put almost all their love into him and his future, the rest going to my sister with some scrapes for me, until that day, and afterward I wasn't much beyond a card now and then. His death took the life from our Dad, who passed away just over 3 years later.

We were like the plants. He the bigger noticeable one with all the life to show. I the one finding life on the edge and eventually asked to leave at 19. It wasn't either of us who caused this, it was our Dad who made those decision about our importance in his life and the family, and my Mom who followed Dad. That's all. In our twenties we had our own lives, work and families, but as we grew into our thirties, we broke through the divide our Dad created.

We found being brothers was what we missed and let it almost slip through our lives, never really knowing the other one. Greg was the career one in our family, rising to be CEO of AMC Theater Company before being ousted in a buyout he negotiated. He learned about corporate politics the hard way, and one on his own again, he lost sight of life, to die a few years later from the wear and tear of life. And that's the sadness of it.

While he was a two-pack a day smoker and an alcoholic, he was smart and wise in many aspects. Sadly not with his family. It seems he followed what he learned from Dad, and his three kids turned out very similar to us three, but they're doing far better now as we did. That's life, you cope and get on with it, or decide something else to do.

Anyway, I salute him every August 21st. You see it was the day I bought my 1991 VW Vanagon Syncro, and drove it home to hear the news on the answering machine. The first drive was to the airport to fly to Kansas City for the funeral. The second trip after coming home was to the ocean near Westport south of Aberdeen. For a reason.

We travelled a lot in the world, but Greg never saw the Pacific Ocean. He came close once when he went to LA to negotiate the buyout deal of AMC with the new company. He couldn't find the time to go to the beach and stand there to see the ocean. He always expressed regret about that, so I took some flower from the service to place them in the ocean, and watch them float out to sea. It was all I could think of to do to give thanks for him and being his brother.

You see for many years our Dad tried to make us compete with each other on his standards. We broke from that when he was living in Gunnison, Colorado. He loved living there in the country. His family didn't, so after 2-plus years he returned to Denver and then Kansas City for the family. But I could see it in his eyes and heart, he didn't want to leave Gunnison. While I praised his success, he praised my freedom.

He was locked into our parents. I was set free but mostly disowned. We found our friendship to talk about life, something I haven't done with anyone else. We were totally different but found we were also so alike. I miss him. And I think of May 25, 1997, the day we reached the same age in our life. I'm still here and he's still in our hearts.

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