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.
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.