A death in the family: Part II

As I previously noted, my brother Brendan died on Wednesday. He was 49 years old. His obituary is here.

A few more details have been released about the accident. He was alone so we can only postulate what must have happened. I’m not sure how long it was before someone found him, but by then he had already passed.

When Dad called me and said it was an auger accident, I didn’t really know what an auger was so I Googled it. When I saw pictures of them, I winced. It sounds like it must have been absolutely ghastly. I can only hope it happened very quickly and he didn’t suffer.

Visitation is tomorrow. Michael and I are going together. He’s only met Brendan twice, most recently at Christmas last year.

My family used to be very unkind to Michael. It was the age difference; they thought it was wrong for him to date me when I was so much younger. Some of them said a lot of nasty things about him, and pretty much everything he did they automatically read in the worst possible light.

I can understand their feelings; I was only 16 years old and Michael was 27, and a lot of people would have a problem with that. (I want to emphasize that Michael wasn’t in the habit of dating significantly younger people, and that our relationship was and has always been legal. We met in college; I was getting my high school education there and he was working on another bachelor’s degree.)

But the fact that I understood my family’s feelings didn’t mean their comments and actions hurt any less. Years passed, and my mother and siblings came to realize Michael really loved me and was good for me. But for the longest time he didn’t want anything to do with them.

Last Christmas, though, he decided to “bury the hatchet” and go to my family’s celebration, and everyone got on splendidly. I’m glad he went, the more so because he and Brendan got to have some positive interaction between each other before it was too late.

Michael’s parents plan to go to the visitation also, out of respect for me. The funeral is Monday. Michael has to work so he can’t go to that. I’ll go, of course. Break out the Special Occasion Shoes, the only heels I own. Brendan will be buried next to his son.

Frankly, I feel like a bystander in all of this. Like I said before, Brendan and I weren’t close. Actually, that’s an understatement; we barely had a relationship at all. We were a generation apart, hadn’t lived together since I was an infant, and had nothing in common.

So I don’t feel so much grief as commiseration for everyone else: my siblings who were closer to him than I was — he and Colin in particular were best buds — and our parents, and his children, and his wife.

I don’t think it’s really hit my parents yet. My mom says she still expects Brendan to call her any minute and regale her with the tale of his accident with the auger which he miraculously survived without serious injury.

Dad and I talked today and he said this is a much different experience from when my brother Brian died in 1988. Brian’s death, he said, was “dramatic” and a bit drawn-out: the car accident, hooked up to life support while everyone waited for news with baited breath and prayed for a miracle, the doctors declaring him brain-dead, and then turning off the machines and donating his organs. Afterwards, the organ donation folks invited Mom and Dad to meet the people who had received Brian’s corneas and kidneys, and my parents thought it over and said no.

Brendan, on the other hand, was just gone. I mean, he probably woke up in the morning and packed his lunch and went to work, thinking afterwards maybe he’d have a few beers and then maybe take the kids to see Black Panther, and then he was gone.

My family has survived the death of a son and brother once before, and I am convinced we can do so again. We’re strong. Things are shaken up and eventually they will settle into a new kind of normal.

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Black History Month: Zaden McKnight

In honor of Black History Month I’m profiling one African-American MP every day on this blog for the month of February. Today’s case is Zaden Alexander McKnight, a four-year-old boy who disappeared from Dayton, Ohio on March 25, 2014. Zaden went missing with his mother, Nichelle. Nichelle’s body was found near the Stillwater River two and a half weeks later. She’d been murdered.

Zaden is presumed murdered too, and the police are pretty sure what happened and who did it. Antwan Anderson, Nichelle’s ex-boyfriend, and Tonisha Harris, another woman Anderson had dated, are the prime suspects in the cases.

Neither of them have been charged in connection with the actual homicides, but Harris was imprisoned for using Nichelle’s bank card and later for evidence tampering, abuse of a corpse and failure to report a crime.