Losing a brother over thanksgiving has turned out to suck worse than I thought. I hope to god nobody suggests going around the table to say what we’re thankful for this year because my list is short: Nothing. I’m thankful for nothing. I suppose I’m thankful for the incredible support my family and I have received in this terribly difficult time but I’d trade all that for my brother, you know?
Just a bit of advice I’ve learned: Don’t get yourself into a situation where you are writing a eulogy for a 23 year old. Being the writer in the family I insisted that it was my job, but holy fuck. I wrote my brother’s eulogy. How does that sound? How totally fucked up does that sound?
This diary is a little bit more than a scream of pain in the dark, because I’d like to share a bit about my brother with everyone, including the funniest memories of him. He was a funny guy.
Can I give a bit of advice to people? First of all, if you lose someone and friends ask "Can I help?" please say yes. We are suffering but so are they. I hope they find comfort in all of the junk food they’ve brought us, even if I won’t eat it anyway. If someone you know loses someone, please say you’re sorry even if it’s inadequate – and for pete’s sakes if you bring them food, consider bringing them fruit or something because it seems all anyone wants to do is bake us cakes and cookies. I had a lot more ability to function the day I got the news, and fortunately I packed a bag full of guavas, Asian pears, and apples for myself.
My brother’s short existence was a tortured one. On the outside he was the jovial well-liked fat guy. Inside, he was often miserable. He died happy, at least I can say that. But I wonder how many of my brother’s years were spent in a self-made prison of severe anxiety and depression? He spent his 23 years making me happy and making me laugh. It was only this year that we discovered his mental illness, and I just hope the joys in his life outweighed the anxiety and pain.
Mom asked if I wanted Adam’s guitar. Adam loved music in an extraordinary way. I used him instead of Wikipedia to organize everything in my iPod by genre because he had everything all memorized. Name an artist, he’ll tell you the specific genre. Sometimes, like when I asked him to categorize the Beatles, he’d say "Which album?" or "Which song?" He really knew what he was talking about. He loved everything from rock to opera, although he looked down his nose at the Broadway musicals the rest of the family loves so much.
So I thought about it. And I decided. I don’t want his guitar. I want his penis-in-a-box. No, not the real organ off my brother. That can go wherever the rest of him goes. I’m sure he’d try to convince me that it was such an amazing specimen that it should be considered for organ donation, but he had rotted for about 4 days before anyone found him so even the non-joking possibility for organ donation was gone.
No, the penis-in-a-box I want was a souvenir from Spain. In 2002 our family spent 2 weeks there. For me it was the end of 3 months in Europe and towards the end I just kind of shut down. I didn’t want to see another cathedral. I wanted to sit in the hotel with the Spanish yarn I’d bought and knit. The rest of the family went to some touristy shop and Adam found THE souvenir he wanted from Spain.
It’s a doll that looks like a cross between a clown and a bullfighter. Its torso is a wooden box that says either "Welcome to Barcelona" or "Bienvenidos a Barcelona" (I can’t remember). When you open the box an enormous dick comes out and – if you’re holding it too close – smacks you in the face. And it says on it: Surprise.
Well, they didn’t buy it at first. So Adam sent Mom back the next day – Dad can’t speak Spanish – to make the purchase. My poor mom had to go in to a clerk and say "Estoy buscando un regalo para mi hijo. El qiere un pene en una caja." Fortunately, the clerk understood at once and my mortified, red-faced mother was able to complete her mission.
Dad – who is so honest to a fault he stops at stop signs in parking lots even if it’s 5am – decided to declare this treasure on the customs form. He listed it as "novelty." Mom and Adam teased him mercilessly for it, elbowing him and asking "What’s a novelty? What is it? Huh? Huh?" We’re a little prude in our family. Dad was embarrassed.
As we walked through the customs line, we heard the usual speech about declaring any weapons. I heard a little voice from the general direction of my brother say "I have a weapon...." Mom and Dad flipped because you know how customs officials like to take jokes.
So if there’s a memory of my brother that I want, that’s it. Another item of my brothers that I wonder about is his "Captain Dildo" shirt. When Adam was a freshman in high school, he discovered that there is a town in Newfoundland called Dildo, and they sell T-shirts online. He had to have one. Then, naturally, he wore it to school. The nickname stuck. The entire swim team knew my brother as Captain Dildo. Adam joked that Dad liked this because it made him (Dad) therefore "Mr. Dildo."
Then there’s the time Adam got a detention for a science experiment. His sophomore biology class was told to swab the dirtiest thing they could think of and then culture it for bacteria. Other kids rubbed their Q-tips on the locker rooms, the lunch rooms, and doorknobs. Adam searched his soul for the dirtiest thing he could come up with and decided upon his own balls.
When the time came to analyze the experiment results, most kids came up with just about nothing. The doorknobs and the locker room just weren’t that dirty. Adam’s balls, on the other hand... different story there. So the biology teacher came around and noticed what an excellent specimen Adam had. She said "Oh! That is wonderful! What did you use..." and then saw the label on the container: "Adam’s genitalia."
To complete the experiment, the teacher made a table on the chalk board comparing what each student used and how much bacteria they measured. For Adam’s group, she labeled it "Scrotum" which of course my bro and his friends laugh even more. Then she gave him a detention.
Or there’s the time the family was in Hawaii looking at funny T-shirts. I was 13, Adam was 8. We saw a shirt with a chicken and a cat on it and the cat said "Chicken" and the chicken said "Pussy." Adam cracked up. Mom and Dad started laughing that he knew what the word meant. I made a comment that it wasn’t that funny. Mom asked, "Do you even know what it means?" Oh sure... that one’s a chicken and that one’s a pussycat. Adam had to explain the joke to me.
So that was my brother. My brother who asked for "some bitches" on his Hanukkah list every year. My brother who got in trouble for taking his pants off on the school bus (as a joke, I swear). My brother who could make me laugh more than anyone else in the world. My brother who made me feel more liked and more likable than anyone else in the world. I was a nerd growing up. I got picked on, and I had a hard time making friends. To Adam, I was cool.
I can tell you guys I’m going to need some help. I can’t promise I won’t keep writing pained, depressing diaries that don’t relate to politics. You are’t required to rec them. Hopefully I’ll have the sense not to hit post. Just the sheer act of writing is helpful. I’ve been on the phone with Kossacks for most of the last 48 hours. I’ve been using different timezones to my benefit, calling Eddie C while the west coast is still asleep, and then keeping Hekebolos awake in California until the sun comes up there. The best 5 to 10 minutes of my day yesterday where when I got a tampon stuck up myself and suddenly I had a more pressing (so I thought) problem to deal with than my brother. I do NOT want to be That Girl in the Emergency Room. But I got it dealt with and then I was back to my bigger problems.
If you’re near Naperville, IL, we’re having a service for my baby brother on Sunday at 10:30am. It’s at the funeral home next to the Burger King on Washington in downtown Naperville (516 S Washington) and afterwards all are invited to my parents house. I can’t promise anyone a good time – it’ll probably suck – but I’d appreciate if people show up to support me even if they don’t know Adam.
If you aren’t nearby and you’d like to honor my brother’s memory, or at least make me feel a bit better about it, my family is asking people to donate to the ACLU instead of sending us anything like flowers.
Thanks for being there. Please keep me from being alone over the next several months because I’m my own worst enemy right now.