We interrupt the travel blog to bring you The Epiphany.
No, not the one that occurs after Christmas. This one was the one I had at 3 a.m. or so this morning.
Yesterday, we did the clear-out and clean-up of my deceased brother's house prior to getting it sold, since he died intestate (without a Will) and the house needs to be sold so that proceeds (if any) can be distributed to heirs. I say "if any" because, like 99.9% of 49-year-olds, there is some debt. But that's not the epiphany.
Yesterday was wearing, both because it was hotter than heck, and because you work like crazy to clean out; you find out more than you'd like about a person. You see things you wish you could un-see. You note the pathetic brevity of a human life, made even more so by the fact that he died just shy of his 50th year -- in the year 2013 -- of a heart attack.
You realize that, in the case of a sudden death, someone (or in this case, several of us) descends upon your home, decides what's trash and what's either treasure or can be sold - and the great majority of everything we own, quite frankly, is trash.
My mom was stunned at the trash in the back alley. All she said was "Oh my God." Yeah, that's a life that someone lived, reduced to trash that will be hauled away. We loaded up 4 vehicles with stuff that we had to go through; the few things that could be sold; stuff that needed to be returned (work uniforms, etc.); stuff that needs to be handed over to the kids... all that.
And as I look around my office here, I wonder. What will happen to all of this? This is "stuff I really need" - at least I think so. But the kids? Not so much, probably. Who will go through my books? What will happen to the guitars (though I already know the answer to that one)? And what about my yarn stash? The CDs? We have boys; nobody's going to be clamoring for my evening bags or fighting over my craft stuff.
Anyway, I wasn't sleeping this morning. Again. And I was pondering, because I met one of Bro #2's friends yesterday. A very soft-spoken guy, and I had to wonder. Bro #2 and I didn't get along; let's just get that out of the way. It was difficult to hold a civil conversation for more than a few minutes.
But at his wake and funeral, the 3 remaining siblings heard about his "kindness," his "empathy," his "dedication to his job," and "how much we all enjoyed being around him."
Really? Who is that guy and why didn't HE ever show up at family events? Why did WE get the loudmouth, bigoted, ignorant jerk who once said to Kid #1, "That long hair makes you look like a hippy fag - I'll cut it off for you" as he grabs him by the ponytail. For what it's worth, Kid #1 had (and still has) gorgeous hair, even when it was down to his shoulders. And for the record, when it got slightly below his shoulders, he cut it off and donated it to Locks of Love. So there.
And for what it's worth, I told him that if he ever laid a hand on my kid again, he'd draw back a nub. Kid #1 told me later, "It's ok, Mom. That just him."
Anyway, who was that guy? Why did we not know him? We saw evidence that, in spite of him being somewhat of a ne'er-do-well, he was trying to get his life together. Maybe the Big 5-0 was staring him in the face and perhaps he felt some urgency. Bro #1 told me the other day, "You know, if maybe we'd had another 5 years, we would have FOUND that guy everyone was complimenting. But our brother died before WE could find that guy."
Was that guy always there, but we didn't notice? Well, that guy may have been there, but we didn't get a chance to see him. It was all bluster and bravado, and his oldest kid was (and is) the same way. Everything was always a contest. Always one-up, always bigger, badder, nastier.
And then, at 3 a.m. or so it hit me.
Rather, the LACK of college. Between me, Sis, and Bro #1, we have EIGHT college degrees. Out of all the grandsons, 3 of them have at least a Bachelor's degree. Between us - the siblings - there's a nurse, an engineer, and a double Master's Degree manager. For what it's worth, I win the tally on "the most diplomas." But either way.
It was college. Bro #2 barely made it out of high school. For a while, he was a cop. That's a totally honorable profession, of course, but due to circumstances lost in the mist of memory or just Not Talked About, he left his police job after about a decade.
But the rest of us went to college (as adult students paying our own way, but nevertheless - we went). I think that perhaps the bravado and bluster were coping mechanisms because he felt that he wasn't "up to our standards." The pecking order is, pretty much, that I'm the smartest one, Bro #1 is next, Sis is a very close #3 -- and then there's Bro #2, a/k/a "The Baby." At least that's how it's perceived.
Frankly, Bro #1 and I think that Sis beats us...She's a nurse, and really, for all the "smarts" I have, I barely made it out of high school Chemistry alive. I think it's totally awesome that she can save (and has saved) lives. I also think it's amazing that Bro #1 builds experimental airplanes. Me? I can write and I have a really good memory for stuff that nobody else either sees or chooses to store in their brain; I'm also pretty good at leading people and having disparate groups of people play well together. There are the usual things that can't be quantified that I do that nobody else in my family does, but as far as straight-up academics, THAT is one thing I can do really, really well.
And I believe that Bro #2 was distinctly uncomfortable. Maybe he felt like nobody valued what he did. Maybe he felt like he was dumped on as a child. Maybe he felt like all of us were successful and he wasn't, nor was he likely to be. Maybe - just maybe - he felt like he had to be a jerk to get any attention, because we truly can be a loud and obnoxious bunch when we get together. As the youngest in the family, might it have been that he felt that in order to gain ANY attention, he had to be a snot?
I don't know. I will never know. But I think I'm on to something.
I still have a lot more work to be done; there's a whole big recycle tote with paperwork in it. I have to go to the bank tomorrow to set up the estate account. I have a few things that I have to document and file away. Stuff needs to be cataloged on the balance sheet I'm doing. I have to check with a Realtor to get the house up for sale. I have to chase down a bank account (evidence of which we found yesterday). Mail is transferred to my house. I had to put the utilities for the house in my name. We're missing a garage door opener and a car title.
It's a mess.
But within that, I have to say this gives me a good impression, if I didn't already have one, of the brevity of life -- and what happens when you leave it unexpectedly and someone else has to clean up the mess.
I'm not saying that there's a "perfect" departure. Even the most organized among us will leave some little mess when we go. There will always be clean-up. But this? This is a really large undertaking and I am feeling the pressure to "fix" what I really can't fix. It is what it is, and honestly? It ain't pretty.
But I'm going to do the best I can. Because that's how it's done. I know we didn't get along. And I'm not sure that extra 5 years that Bro #1 wanted would ever have begun to chip away at over 40 years of idiocy. But I will do this so that his kids get whatever little bit they can, and I can at least leave his final affairs tidied up as best I can do. That's all I can do for him now. That's all that's left.