my brother died on Saturday
Donald William Bowers II
I can’t describe the myriad of thoughts I have on the subject of my brother, the deep complexities of the love and frustration I have for him, with him, because of him, in spite of him…
I can’t put it into words. Not yet.
I just want to think about what was spectacular about him.
I want to write about how much I loved him.
This is for you, Donnie. My brother.
My mother always told this story about how when she brought me home from the hospital, she would keep finding you sitting on the floor in my room, watching me in my crib. She talked about how you adored me and held me, and just pretty much obsessed over me in the early days. That’s exactly how I remember you in my earliest memories.
We had matching pajamas. Tiger stripes. And in the 70s we wore corduroy jeans and kiss t-shirts. You always ended up with hand me downs from Aunt Tonia, which were a little feminine in baby blue or maroon. Poor Donnie. You wore it well, though. You always had a flair for fashion. I am pretty sure you can thank Tonia for your early fashion edge.
We used to walk to school together everyday. We really were free range kids. Sometimes in the snow, we would try to make it all the way across the field without breaking through the snowpack and whoever made it furthest was the winner.
Do you remember when I stood in the doorway of our house, next to you while we watched a tornado brewing across the street because our crazy ass father had no sense at all and let us do it?
They pretty much let us do whatever we wanted to do.
We smoked their cigarettes.
Do you remember the first time when Dad was asleep on the giant black and white bean bag chair and we stole some money from Dad’s wallet and some of his cigarettes and walked to the store. I was 6 and you were 9.
(No really. This was the 70’s. People just let their kids run wild.)
We bought candy and sodas and then we smoked their cigarettes.
It’s so weird that we both ended up smokers. So weird.
I remember the day they left us alone and I guess something was in my hair when they got home. Maybe candy or something sticky. It’s vague. He was angry and screaming and there were fists and feet and Donnie was there protecting me. And afterwards we were in the bathroom and you gently shampooed and combed my hair and told me it would be ok. I was standing in the shower, and you held me in your arms and you told me it would be ok.
I remember how sweet you were in that moment.
It really is my favorite memory of you.
So many years later in a cabin in Tahoe, I looked up and saw you. Really saw you. You were completely freaking out over this “yule log” you had created for the occasion. My X-husbands entire family was there and it was Christmas. You wanted to sing Christmas Carols and you wanted everyone to focus on just being together and enjoying the yule log. I was super impatient with you pushing everyone toward the living room and the fire you had created. Finally, everyone was in the living room singing carols and enjoying your yule log. And I saw you in that moment. You were as happy as I have ever seen you, basking in the beauty of that moment of family and connection. Everything you had ever wanted.
I keep picturing the way you carried Lily around when she a baby. Like you had been carrying babies all your life. Carrying her too loosely, like a football. Eventually sneaking her chocolate and teaching her to tease her mother.
After mom died, I needed you to drive her cats to Tonia in Ohio. You were the only one who could do it. I sent you to mom’s house to capture them. It took you two hours. You came back covered in scratches after what was clearly an epic battle getting those cats into kennels for the 1300 mile drive. You never complained. You just gave me a kiss and told me you would handle it and then you drove 20 hours straight until you got the cats to Tonia. Where they both still live, 11 years later. Thank you.
Did I ever say, thank you?
I have flashes of you with your son, Jacob. Being his dad. Holding him, changing his diaper. The pride in your eyes when you introduced him to your family and friends the first time.
I remember disco dancing with you as kids. I know it was on a real dance floor with lights and serious disco music, in the 70s, when it was brand new. My god we danced like only children can do, with abandon. I can’t imagine what two children were doing in a disco alone (in my memory we were alone) but this is a real memory, it has to be.
Pacific Crest Trail. You almost did the entire trail from Mexico to Canada. I thought it was a waste of time back then but you were so passionate about it that I got excited for you and we packed your boxes and got them ready to be mailed over the months away. One day we went to visit you on the trail near Santa Barbara. The timing worked out and you were nearby after walking hundreds of miles over weeks on the trail. You came out to meet us at the car and you looked skinny, and hairy, and sunburnt and you smelled pretty bad. But we were all so happy to be together and shared dinner with your friends on the trail and the kids ran around us and we talked and talked. Mountain man.
That’s my second favorite memory of you.
New Year’s Eve in Ohio at least 25 years ago. We were bar hopping and there was a midnight celebration and then we were walking the streets and it was freezing, like actually freezing cold outside. Ohio cold. Which is a different sort of frozen solid cold. We couldn’t find a cab and I was wearing a stupid “cute” coat that matched my outfit and didn’t provide any protection from the wind.
You didn’t give me your jacket.
Hell no. You laughed at me for bringing such a stupid coat in an Ohio winter storm.
And then you convinced a complete stranger to drive us home. I love you.
Charismatic charm. Passionate. Fierce. Energetic. Fun. Protective.
I don’t have an ending for this blog.