Sunday, March 15, 2020


When I started this blog, I promised myself three things: that I wouldn’t talk about politics, religion or my family (grandkids excepted). I have broken that promised a few times (Trump and Breixt were hard to ignore) and I am about to again. So, I hope you will forgive me for posting about my recently deceased brother, Marc.

Caveat: if you are a friend or family member reading this and your impressions differ from mine, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean my impressions are right, or wrong, it just means they are mine.

To begin with, I was never very close to Marc. I was very, very close to my sister, Melinda, however, because, for an eternity, it was just the two of us. Too young for school, Melinda and I played in the yard, the woods, the fields, the leaves, the snow and I couldn’t imagine life without her always with me. Then, when I was four, eternity ended; Melinda started school, and Marc was born.

September 1959
We greeted him with joy and much fawning, but he really wasn’t very much fun. He just laid there and gurgled and, eventually, we pretty much ignored him.

The first real memory I have of playing with Marc was when I shot him with the bow and arrow.

I was about ten—so he must have been about six—when my parents bought me a bow and arrow set. Not the cheap wood and suction-cup arrows variety you find in toy shops, but a real, archery set, with sharpened, metal-tipped arrows. (What were they thinking?) I spent lots of time shooting at the target set up in the side yard but became frustrated that I couldn’t hit the bullseye. So, I got a long tube from my father’s shop (he was an upholsterer and had large spools of material on sturdy, cardboard tubes that must have been 8 feet long) and had Marc hold it up to the target’s bullseye so I could shoot the arrow into the other end.

As you have already guessed, I missed the hole and hit Marc in the arm. It didn’t (thankfully) stick in, but it did leave a mark and it made him scream like a banshee and I dropped the bow and ran to him saying the only thing a child could say in a situation like that: “Don’t tell mom!”

He told mom.

Archery mishaps aside, we did play together more as he grew older. He was a bubbly, happy child with a good sense of fun, quick to laugh and always up for adventure, if it didn’t involve me shooting arrows at him.

Me, Marc, Melinda and Michele, Matt
Christmas 1964
The first photo (that I have) of us all together.

The last photo I have of us all together--with Dad, even
Dad, Marc, Me, Melinda, Michele, Matt
May 2006

As the years progressed, his sense of adventure grew and, eventually, he and my sister—who also had a wild streak—became tight. Left on my own, I spent a lot of time contemplating nature and writing angst-ridden poetry while Melinda and Marc drank and smoked with an increasingly rowdy series of friends.

(Later, when I became a Jesus-freak, nobody wanted to associate with me at all, and I can’t say as I blame them.)

When I was finally thrown out of the cult (something to do with the minister’s daughter) I returned to the fold, partying with my siblings but never really fitting in (there was still that poetry thing).

Matt, Michele and Marc
September 1969
The most surprising thing about this photo is that people
actually went out dressed like that.
As we grew older, Marc’s adventurous nature began costing my father money. He had several run-ins with the law and one time, when he and his buddies were partying, they got a wild hair up their collective butts and decided to go to California. Fetching him back ratcheted up the debt my father continued to keep track of.

My father maintained a belief that Marc was going to pay him back, which was optimistic, but charmingly naïve. Then, as Marc approached his twenties, my father made him an offer: he would forgive Marc’s debts if he would join the army. He should have had a lawyer look the agreement over first; a legal mind would have spotted the glaring loophole immediately.

Marc joined the army, my father forgave his debts (by now into the thousands) and, between the time he signed up and before he had to leave for boot camp, he was involved in an horrific car crash that shattered his leg, and the army pronounced him unfit for service and discharged him. (Additionally, while waiting to go in, Marc had convinced a few of his friends to join up with him. They had to go, but he didn’t.)

Marc spent weeks in traction and then was put into a body cast. After a month or so in the body cast, he was put in a smaller cast that allowed him some mobility. Subsequently, he went out with his buddies, got drunk and chipped the cast off, necessitating a trip to the hospital to put a new one on. This became a pattern until, some months later, he was finally out of his cast for good. Until I broke his leg again.

Me, Marc, Matt
March 1977
By now he was engaged to Wendy, and I became engaged to Wendy’s best friend, Jayne. (In looking back now, I find it odd that our wives were closer to each other than I was to my brother.) Marc and Wendy were in the boy’s dorm and Jayne and I were in the kitchen (there were seven of us—my parents, my two sisters and me and my two brothers—in a small house containing, as I termed it, a master bedroom, the girl’s dorm and the boy’s dorm) and Marc was drunk and getting bolshie. Somehow, we started annoying each other. Words were exchanged and we ended up in a tense standoff, facing each other on either side of the doorway to our bedroom.

Marc and Wendy at their wedding
September 1979
I am, by nature, a peaceful individual. I always said I was too small to fight fair, so I usually walked away from conflict, but I was determined not to back down in front of my fiancée so I jumped up and kicked him square in the chest. He went down and, to my horror, I realized that, if he got back up, he would kill me. So, I dove on him and, with the girls screaming and us shouting, we rolled around on the bedroom floor until we heard a snap and his face went white and I looked and saw his foot had become stuck under a dresser and had not rolled with his leg.

I jumped off him but, bellowing like a bull, he tried to get up and come after me. My father rushed into the room and had to punch him in the face to keep him from getting up and doing more damage to his leg. The ambulance was called and arrived in short order, just about the time (as I recall) that my sister came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her. Marc was still screaming that he was going to kill me, and the paramedics were telling him that if he didn’t quiet down they were going to sedate him. They strapped him onto the gurney and took him out and, as was often the case when Marc left a gathering, everything went suddenly quiet.

The next morning—fearing he might make good on his promise to kill me when he got back home—I rented an apartment and permanently moved out of my parent’s house.

As with the bow and arrow incident, the broken leg was soon forgotten. I was at his wedding, and he was at mine, but even then, he was living in Texas and I hardly ever saw him. As the years went by, even though I saw him at sporadic intervals, we became virtual strangers.

After I left for Britain, however, our family established an agreeable tradition: every time my wife (New wife; want the story? Buy the book.) and I came for a visit, we would hold a family reunion. In this way, I began seeing him, not often, but at least regularly. By now he was divorced, but still quick to laugh and always ready with a humorous anecdote, and almost always drunk. He was fun and funny and quite a force, and no one, to my knowledge, ever said, “Marc was at that party I was at last night? That’s funny, I didn’t notice him.”

April 2002
At one of these reunions, some 14 years or so ago, he told me he had 5 years to live. I was never clear on what was wrong with him, but I gather his drinking had something to do with it and he was strongly advised to give it up. He didn’t, but in a way, I can respect him for remaining true to himself. He lived his life the way he wanted and outlived the doctor’s prediction by a long shot.

Moriah (Marc's daughter), Marc, Melinda
June 2008
In his later years, he returned to NY and moved in, coincidentally, with an old friend of mine, Tanya, and on each visit my wife and I made certain to spend some time with them. For the most part, despite his increasing debility, he was still his old self, but when we visited last autumn, he remained quiet and withdrawn and we feared the worst.

I heard he was going downhill on the 15th of February. I flew over on the 20th and arrived as he was taken home from the hospital. Tanya told me to visit in the morning as he was tired from the trip. He died over night however, and I never got to see him.

All I can says is, he lived—and died—on his own terms, and that’s not something a lot of people can claim.

True to himself.

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