God willing, and Northwest Airlines remaining viable until after flight 595 from Minneapolis/St. Paul touches the tarmac at PDX tomorrow night, my brother-in-law will be visiting with us for the next two weeks.
My sister Joyce died a little over ten years ago. Yet it’s been inconceivable to me to stop thinking of her husband as my brother. I was thirteen years old when he became part of my family; nearly forty when the tie that legally bound him to us passed from this world. That tie didn’t simply evaporate when my sister died. How could it?
My "brother" K and I have had our struggles. Decades ago, when he was nuts and I was a teen-ager, we had a pretty spectacular falling out. But damned if he didn’t come to me, just a couple of weeks later, hat in hand, and apologize for what he had done… I was nineteen and he was twenty-nine. Think about that, for a minute. So many men can’t find it within themselves to apologize for anything, ever. That was how much he loved my sister, and my family, and me, I think. What seemed at the time to be one of the most tragic episodes of my life, turned into one my most cherished memories.
When my sister was dying, it was I who flew back home to try to "be there" for her family. Though my presence during that awful time ultimately estranged me from her daughters, it drew K and me even closer. For a little while, we were the only two people on earth who came anywhere near to understanding each others’ grief. Though much of the bond remained unspoken, it was there, nonetheless.
And yet, I’m slightly apprehensive about this visit. In spite of the history, I’m wondering what remains of the emotional attachment we once had for each other. It has been ten years, after all. Three days after my sister died, I reluctantly tore myself away from his grief to board a plane and return to my own life, such as it was. Since then, I’ve only seen him a handful of times. We’ve flown back to the midwest for family reunions; he flew to Oregon for my father’s funeral. But, being the middle-aged old farts we are, ten years seems like no time at all…
I love this guy. And, you know, that brings a whole set of complications of its own. Because, more than anything, I would like to see him find another partner…someone who could love him as my sister did, and that he could grow old with. But then, there’s a part of me that kind of fears that possibility. Because, ifhe DID meet a wonderful woman with whom he could share the rest of his life (he’s only just sixty years old…), where would that put us? Is there a place for the late wife’s family in such a picture? I don’t know. It’s selfish of me to wonder. What I truly want is for him to be happy.
At any rate…tomorrow, we pick him up at the airport (we hope) and commence trying to show him a good time for the next fourteen days. And,in spite of all my characteristic overthinking, I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks.