Realized recently how often I speak and write about loss. I start stories with, “My Dad used to…” and still remind myself tomorrow would have been my oldest brothers 48th birthday. Annoying I suspect, like the parents who talk non-stop about their children or the pet owner who refers to her cats as babies. Photos included.
With so many celebrity deaths permeating the media this year we speak of each passing in terms of how the life and work of someone never known personally or in intimate circles touched us. Speak of loss as it relates to us, what we lost in proxy. Madonna was soundly criticized for her spoken Michael Jackson tribute at the MTV Video Music Awards this weekend where she juxtaposed milestones in her life to his; "I" came up a dozen times. I didn’t find what she had to say and how she chose to say it self-serving. I understood that was her reflection and recollection.
I was just months into what would become (and remains) a long family estrangement when Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with cancer, pancreatic and it sounded bad. Sad news for a presence beloved by millions and stored in memory jars for the drops he left on celluloid (like mine, watching “Dirty Dancing” on VHS at a college girlfriends condo in Boulder, flattening out real pasta made with eggs and flour from a machine and quipping shyly at the sexy parts). Patrick Swayze resembled my now oldest brother in a remarkable fashion - a favorite family story is how he’d been stopped in Wal-Mart by a young girl with stars in her eyes, begging for an autograph. They could be doppelgangers; I couldn’t enjoy any of the shirt off action of “Ghost,” seeing only an oddly familiar and blonde biological face on screen.
When I first heard Swayze reportedly had “Months…Weeks To Live!!” (as exclaimed by the parasitic tabloid media) I panicked. I saw my brothers face, the brother I’d lost not to death but a cauldron of long simmering circumstances. His spouse didn’t/doesn't like me, didn’t/doesn't want me around. He was one of my best friends and of course he chose her. He should have. Of course it destroyed me a little. A lot actually, for awhile.
Swayze just died from his cancer and each time I see the face with dates listed below it I go to panic and teary sadness. Because it's 20 months later and I still don’t speak to my brother. I know he asks about me, I know he’s had some updates. But we don’t talk.
And I don’t know how to change that from here because I never thought myself worthy of anyone choosing me. Of putting fear on the line, saying I didn’t belong in a corner and lifting me from the ground. I've learned I am, but it doesn't always fit as tight or comfortably again once the puzzle pieces get wet.
The networks are replaying the interview Swayze did (his last) with Barbara Walters tonight. I’m already geared up for the tears, selfish perhaps but a physical reaction to what I’ve lost that’s sadly and comically and ironically a 15-minute drive away.
It's still a feeling, a heartbeat. Ga-gung, ga-gung.