Thirty four years ago, almost to the day, my brother Gregory died. Without preliminary warning, apologies or compassion, death has a way of enveloping even the strongest and most stoic among us while bringing us crashing to our knees.
The most vivid of my childhood memories seems to be during the time we lived in our first floor apartment, the apartment I lived in following my birth. My brother was already born when my parents moved into this development in Brooklyn. Norman Rockwell, the famed artist, author and illustrator, adeptly captured and categorized the idyllic American culture. 1950’s Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn should have been included in Rockwell’s paintings. It was that special of a place, a place encompassing families with young children, families with teenagers and young adults and let’s not forget our fabulous seniors. Benches, strategically placed in front of the buildings bore host to mothers watching their children playing in the playgrounds or on the front stoops, as they discussed the day’s events or just sat witnessing the goings and comings of all those entering the buildings. Many of the “biddies on the beach”, as we affectionately called them rivaled the most astute detectives as they hardly missed a beat.
My brother and I were only seventeen months apart so even in my earliest memories he was there. I can still vividly remember the two of us, laying in our twin beds, each with a bottle filled with milk or some other sustenance dangling from our lips. Just he and I, no one else. This memory always brings a smile to my face as it was such a happy time in my consciousness. What astounds me is that I could not have been more than 2 years old, and my brother no more than 3 so to have any memory of this point in time is such a blessing.
My brother and I drifted in and out of each others lives with various degrees of intensity over the years. We were like two ships passing through the night, at times getting marooned on a sand bank together, only to shove off separately, drifting downstream and then docking at the same pier later down the line. The seas were sometimes turbulent but in the end we were always there for each other.
During the last year of his life, although my brother was sick, he was still a dreamer, a trait we’ve always shared. Right before he died he bought a previously owned black Porsche. It was his pride and joy. Shortly after he bought it, he was hospitalized with what turned out to be the final chapter of his life. The dream of long rides in the Porsche was not to materialize at least not in the traditional sense.
When my younger brother passed away in 2012, we were devastated. He was my baby brother and our second sibling to pass away. It was and still feels unfathomable. As the funeral procession left the cemetery, a black Porsche suddenly appeared on the highway. One by one we took notice of the car. As it continued to weave in and out of traffic, it always stayed within our view, never going more than two car lengths in front or in back of us. Instinctively we knew that my brother Greg was making his appearance so that we would know that my younger brother was with him now. That black Porsche remained with us for more than 15 miles only disappearing when we exited the highway. The sense of peace and comfort we felt was indescribable.
The very next year our precious mother passed away unexpectedly. She was hospitalized for a brief illness so it never dawned on us that she was not coming home. As the unthinkable happened, we were devastated. The grief was insurmountable as we left the hospital in single file lost in our own misery. The doctors’ parking lot was directly in front of the door we exited. Due to the late hour the usually congested parking lot was eerily empty. The parking lot was lit by high intensity lamp posts which created a safe haven from the parking lot to the hospital. In the middle of the parking lot, with no other cars in its environs sat a black Porsche, bathed in the white lights of the lampposts. As we gawked at the scene in front of us, our tears dried on contact as waves of comprehension, joy and faith validated our feelings. In the midst of our grief, our brother Greg, once again let us know through the gift of his black Porsche, that he was there to take our mother home.