cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I had noticed this when my sister and I cam down to Florida on September, but it did not dawn on me until this week that the item in that picture may have been one of the things my Mom read last before she passed away on August 27.

As funny as it seems to the tech heads, both my parents printed out a lot of my email messages. It was not that they could not look at them online, it just seemed to mean more to them to have something to hold, touch, read. My dad had made an entire notebook from the things I wrote on my 6 months of travel in 2000.

So its both warm and sad to think of my Mom re-reading the words I had written about my brother David and his chair, posted as a flickr photo with a story caption

This rocking chair belonged to my brother David, who passed away in 1987. There’s a story here…

David was my parent’s first born, but something wrong, never explained, went wrong at birth, and he was severely mentally retarded. The doctors tried to convince my Mom that it was too much to handle, that David should be institutionalized, but she refused.

So my parents did all they could to make David happy; the old silent 8mm movies show him over and over again rocking in this chair, smiling as big as smile as can be.

My older sisters came along, the family grew, and 10 years later, by the time I was born, my parents were overloaded with taking care of David and now 3 others… so they made that hard decision to put David in a state hospital.

Rosewood it was called.

I recall a little bit driving out to visit David. I did not really understand it all, but there was this horrible institutional smell I can still conjure. David still lit up when we came, but I was told he was at a mental age of 2, unable to feed himself.

And I remembered picking up this (wrong) logic, that it was my being born that forced my parents to send David to Rosewood, that it was my fault. It makes no sense, but these things get burned into your psyche as a kid.

And I always had an extra kick in the gut when kids would tease each other by calling each other “retarded”.

The visits got farther and farther apart. Sometimes I had these day dreams that I would grow up, become a doctor, and find a “cure” for my older brother.

And then we pretty much stopped going at all, or at least I cannot remember going to Rosewood.

It was spring of 1987, I was getting ready to head west for graduate school in a few months, when we got a call that David had passed away fro pneumonia.

The funeral was small and surreal, and David was buried in the cemetery where my parents had their plots pre-purchased It was strange, because I could not summon up emotion for this brother I did not know… I felt more of a gap, as had he been “normal” there would have been someone to teach me baseball, fishing, girls, etc, or at least thats the way big brothers seemed on TV. In 1987 I could not reach a feeling for my brother.

So I moved to Arizona, planted my life here. It may have been another 8, 10 years before I finally sorted out my connection with my brother, and realized I was still carrying this nonsensible child guilt.

So when it was time my parents were selling their house to move to Florida, I made a trip back, and asked them to go to the cemetery with me– and there I read out loud a letter I had written for my brother, to finally express what I could not when we passed away.

Enough tears ran to start a new river in East Baltimore.

But I made my peace.

And it was maybe another 6 years passed when my mom sent a special package here– David’s rocking chair. I cannot say I sit in it much, but I enjoy having it here, like there is still his presence I never really knew.

This 366 photo is for you my brother.

love Alan

The fact that this was out, as Mom spent a day remembering the loss of my Dad 10 years earlier, and her own son David, 24 years earlier, may finally hitting me in the heart. It means much that my words mattered to her, for it is about all I have to create meaning with, just words.

I miss you so much Mom.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Next time you come through Saskatoon, we must have a very long talk. David’s story struck home with me and Karin ran over to read it over my shoulder. Our son, Jim, has Down syndrome and I’m sorry he was out of town when you dropped in. He’s a great guy, and he would have liked to meet you a lot. We’ve been lucky to not face the impossibly difficult choice your folks must have suffered through, and the fallout for you. I’m really glad you found a way to come to terms with your perfectly natural, but totally unreasonable, guilt. Sit easy in that chair, friend.

  2. Dear Alan, You too have a huge warm smile and heart, I remember you generously gave me a lift home in your big truck and shared freely of your time and ideas when I met you years ago an Aussie in Arizona. When I read your online posts I see you in the truck and think of you fondly. I have my Dad’s chair I sometimes sit in it to slip between time and spend a sliver of a moment with him. Last week I got a parcel from my Mum, we travelled together in 2008 to UK, she had made me a book; of photos of us, our special places and the gargoyles I was obsessed with, for my birthday. She also included family recipes – grandmas Rainbow cake (only made for birthdays) baked in a wood stove (the actual recipe photographed in grandmas writing from 1927) and Great Auntie Millie’s Shrewsberry biscuits (cookies), as well as things we ate when I was a child. I rang her speechless and cried. Family is important and the pieces of them are knitted into the beings we are and become…especially mothers. Happy memories and journeying xo Jac

  3. I can’t believe I forgot to thank you for this on the radio tonight. It has been an affecting week. Actually I have had a couple. Many long stories I am learning to tell… but I came home to find amazing people sharing their authentic selves with such beauty and grace that I wept. You posted this, Jabiz put up his Tom Waits song where he just let go and belted it out, another beautiful email from the guy who runs the restaurant I freelance at. The way you folks step forward and just share the core of your being – the light that lives deep within you – constantly and consistently inspires me.
    Sleep gently and smile deeply – you’ve got batches and batches of cookies inside.

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