Growing up, my brother Billy and I shared a bedroom. We slept on a bed that folded into a futon. When we weren’t asleep or at school, he followed me everywhere. If I locked myself in a room, he’d try to pick the lock or figure out another way to get in.
I hated it at the time, being shadowed wherever I went. I was five and a half years older than Billy, and having your younger brother around was a liability. If I was with friends and we got into trouble and needed to run, he was usually the slowest in the pack. I felt like Billy was holding me back, sometimes literally.
But I also knew he needed me, and so when my friends weren’t watching I tried to teach Billy the difference between right and wrong, helped him with homework and showed him how to field a ground ball. I had to fill the void of our dad, who died when Billy was 4 and I was 10. Continue reading
The last time I saw my father was through our living room window.
He was sitting in his favorite La-Z-Boy. I pounded on the screen with my fist, but he paid no attention.
“I love you. I love you,” I said.
Finally, he looked in my direction and muttered something that I couldn’t understand. Satisfied, I walked toward the end of our driveway, where a car was waiting for me. I was leaving for the weekend to stay with my best friend and would be back on a Sunday, November 5.
When I returned home two days later, I was led to my parent’s bedroom, where my uncle and mom were waiting. Your dad got sick, they told me. We took him to a hospital. There was a little bit of a pause. “And he just … died.” Continue reading
I played the air piano while he played the guitar. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to my father, Dave, play music with his friends. I’d pretend to be a part of the band, imagining that the invisible instrument I was banging on made the collective sound of the guitar, bass and drums a little sweeter.
When my father wasn’t playing, I liked to march around our house in a trucker hat with his instruments. Once my younger sister, Valerie, became strong enough to carry a guitar, she became a part of the act. My parents probably found it amusing because there are several pictures of us posing side-by-side with his guitars, sometimes in our underwear.
My father, Dave, (right) singing with his friend Paul. (Photo courtesy of Doug Wolgat)
I could probably remember more about those days with my father if I hadn’t spent years trying to forget them. When he died in 1989 of an abdominal aneurysm at the age of 34, my mother, Vicki, took his pictures off the wall. His instruments were put in a closet. His clothes, in a shed. The songs he had recorded onto cassette tapes were also packed away, but sometimes at night my mother would slip outside and listen to them in her car. Continue reading