My brother would have been turning 60 on June 2nd. Sadly, he died at age 44 from an aggressive kind of cancer, germ cell type, and he had what is called an extragonadal germ cell tumor. It was lodged in his chest and was inoperable. Chemo and radiation didn’t work. I remember right after he died it felt like such an emergency, like an epic emergency, and I couldn’t understand why the world was still chugging along like usual. I was in the neighborhood bakery getting my coffee and I came close to blurting out to the cashier that my brother had just died. I didn’t know this person, and she didn’t know me or my brother, but still, I felt that she should probably know that such an awful thing had happened. Life was weird like that for quite a long time. I remember feeling that the earth wasn’t a safe place anymore without him on it with me. I also remember thinking that there has to be a number I could call to get through to him. I mean, I knew it was crazy, but I just couldn’t quite accept that there was NO WAY to talk with him. As an introvert, I have always hated “catching up” on the phone, but Tom had been the one person I could talk on the phone with for hours. We’d call it our ranting and raving.
(Luckily, I have started a new tradition of ranting with my brother Bob. :)
In the 15 years since Tom’s death, I have learned to become more like him. I’m braver now and more determined to live my life the way I want to. (Admittedly, some of this development is due to being in my 50’s and not giving *ucks anymore!) But man, he had always been good at that! He made shit happen! And one of the coolest gifts I’ve found is channeling his spirit when I’m moving furniture around in my house. I’m like, yes, I know Tom, it looks way better over here!
Here is a poem I wrote for him last year, remembering when we worked together in Harvard Square back in the day. xoxo
For my brother Tom
We took the bus from Medford to Cambridge,
Waiting tables at Atrium Cafe.
Stations flooded at once, pre-theater rush –
We need our check right now they'd say,
Over Chardonnay and vegetable Crudités.
Barry gave you "water" at the bar but
Truth was that vodka lit the shift ablaze
And from departed customers' plates we grazed
Leftover cheesecake as we bussed dishes.
There was Redline construction to Davis Square,
It was the early eighties and we'd share
20 more years before cancer took you.
They left an indelible mark somehow,
Those 50 Church Street days, calling me now.