Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Excuse me while I chronicle a bit of personal history for the benefit of my children.
Today is my brother Brent's birthday. He would be 27 today. In reality, in mortality, he never even turned six. Brent had a form of cancer known as ALL. His was the most curable kind of childhood leukemia, but no amount of medicine or treatment seemed to make that clear to his particular cells.
I was six when Brent was born. I do not remember it the way I remember Whitney's birth. After twenty-one years, I do not remember much about him and that embarrassing fact makes me more almost more sad than thinking about his passing. I'm not going to write about his death today. It's not his death day, it's his birthday, so I'll talk about what I do remember.
Brent was built like a football player, with broad shoulders and a husky build. Really, he was a good baseball player. With four boys and a big yard, our house hosted the neighborhood ball games. When it came time to pick teams, some newer boys who didn't know any better would snicker at the other team's choice of Brent as a teammate...until they saw him at bat. He was young, but mighty.
He loved riding his bike. He was sick a lot, but still managed to perfect riding a two-wheeler early on. He was the youngest son, so maybe he was just trying to keep up with the others. My parents have never gotten rid of that little bike Brent prized. Mason was riding it just last Saturday when we were at my parents' house. Even Mason is too big for it now, but I love to see him smiling as he rides down the driveway and around the cul-de-sac. I love to tell him it's his Uncle Brent's bike.
Brent had a kind of imperfect pronunciation that made him sound like he was from Boston (no offense to those from Boston).
Once, both of my parents needed to attend some functions for other kids in our family while Brent was in the hospital. They never let him stay there alone, so they had me take a turn one night. I remember feeling so grown up that I was "babysitting" Brent in the hospital. It was quite fun! We went to the playroom and did some coloring and crafts and played with some toys. He walked me around his other world of Hershey Medical Center and pointed out the fish tanks in the lobby where they nurses would let him "fish" with gummy worms tied to strings. He tried to sucker me into buying him a Cookie Monster doll from the hospital gift shop. It cost $4 and I didn't have that kind of money. I still feel a little bad about that.
Brent was always getting stuff. People would buy him Transformers (he was a child of the 80's after all), toys and stuffed animals all the time. It really was quite a lot for just one child and he knew that. He'd give us siblings a regular share in his bounty. He knew I liked monkeys so I got some of those.
He "Christmas shopped" for us siblings from the goody bins at the hospital. I still have my Montgomery Moose (from "The Getalong Gang") pencil sharpener he chose just for me.
He had a limitless supply of syringes and was ready to start a water fight (both in and out of the hospital) at a moment's notice. The huge syringes were, at once, amazingly cool and mysteriously terrifying--what was their real purpose?
He named tube coming out of his chest, "Ravage," from the Transformers. He really felt like it was his friend, saving him from endless pokes and pricks with needles.
He was wise beyond his years, as I'm sure is normal for a child who has to grow-up before his time. He was acutely aware of what was happening to him and said to my mother once, "Whitney is scared that I'll die, but she shouldn't be scared, should she, Mom?" It wasn't that he didn't know he was dying, he just knew that it wasn't as scary a thing as we mortals make it out to be.
Okay, I am crying enough now so I guess I'll close. I just want some of this down so my kids have a of bit information to tie to the little boy in photographs their mommy refers to as their "Uncle Brent."