My elder brother is dead. To say his name and the word "dead" in the same sentence is . . . unfathomable. He cut me off in 2012 because, I believe, I came to live with my parents again and rather than talk it out with me, ask me my reasons--he just said he wanted "no more personal sharing." He had cut my parents off 30 years ago. I never had the courage to go to NY and just knock on his door and demand that he hear me. I feared further rejection and now , , , it's too late. I WILL NEVER GET THE CHANCE TO DO IT. Oh! I'm such a coward!
But Paul never explained to ANYONE why he estranged himself. He cut off both my sisters as well. The only person he didn't cut off was my younger brother, who, in their adult years, never really had a relationship. David, my younger brother, never sought a relationship with Paul because he was angry with Paul for the way he cast aside my parents. My parents LAUNCHED HIS CAREER. He found he loved the bass, and my parents nurtured his talent (Paul even told me how much he respected my mother's work ethic. She was the pianist with the orchestra in town.) At age 16, he was a member of the orchestra. He found a teacher he wanted to study with, while in high school--principal bassist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and one or the other of my parents took him and his bass to Cincinnati every week for his lesson. They paid for his college education, and when Paul felt he had learned everything he could in Cincinnati, he transferred to the Cleveland Conservatory of Music to study with the principal bassist of the Cleveland orchestra.
He auditioned for a place in the New York Symphony Orchestra at age 21 and got a job replacing a bassist who was on sabbatical for a year. They helped set him up in his first apartment . . . they invested EVERYTHING in Paul and he just turned his back on them. When he died, he had been principal bassist for the New Jersey Symphony. He was having joint problems--his right shoulder was damaged due to the repetitive motion of drawing a bow across the strings. He practiced five hours a day for YEARS. He knew entire scores to more pieces than I could possibly name. This calendar year, my eldest sister Karen just called him sometimes. Sometimes he would return the call; other times he would not. Mostly not. In June of this year, he knew he was dying, but never told Karen or David, who had reached out to him just to talk after years of silence. Paul said he was sorry that he wasn't there for David when David lost his life partner, his four dogs and his home.
David and Karen tried to call him in late in September, and found that his phone had been disconnected. (Paul REFUSED to own a cell phone.) David was alarmed by this and called the police in Paul's precinct and asked that they go to Paul's apartment building where the superintendent told them that the tenant in 5D had "passed away." Pancreatic cancer. I can't imagine what it must have been like to hear it over the phone.
Meanwhile, my mother told me that David was going to stop in town on his way to California, and, always having loved David's company, I was so happy. But when I came home from my chiropractic appointment, David's demeanor was solemn. He asked to speak to me privately. When the words "Paul is dead," came out of his mouth, I'm told I screamed so loudly and for so long--my family had never heard anything like it. I remember saying "I want to die. I want to be where he is." And we had company for dinner that day to celebrate my mother's cousin's birthday!
How strange life is. I will never see him again, and I have felt guilt about that. My friend, Silvia, said, "But Marianna, you're acting like you did something wrong. He was a grown man. These were his choices. He wanted to be in control, and he was until the end."
He even wrote his own obituary. And the last two paragraphs are so painful to read . . . something like: "While my siblings have accomplishments of their own, I find I've found a better life without them." Early this year, I sent him the book I wrote without a note enclosed or a signature. I'm sure he read it, but I knew not to expect a response.
For a while my grief ran the gamut of anger to ruminating on his emotional fragility.
Paul and my father are the two templates I have for finding a life partner. I always go for the guy with the big brain and the frozen heart. (My last relationship with a man was a disaster because I was so lonely I settled for someone lesser than my standard, and he turned out to be mentally ill and verbally abusive.) Paul was very unkind to me when we were growing up. I would have done ANYTHING to make him like me. We had a good talk when I was in my early twenties, and he apologized for the pain he'd inflicted on me.
Oh, Paul! Today I can feel only love.