I have no words as I lost my brother yesterday afternoon. In remembrance of his beauty and bravery of fighting the battle for his life, I am posting this essay I wrote about him. I wrote this on the prompt “Reflections on green” , and it was published on Women’s Memoirs. I posted a link to it at the bottom of another post a few weeks ago so you may have already read it. My dear sweet Monte, I will cherish the memories and love you forever.
Though he was ten years older, I still tagged along in his lush world as often as he allowed. We ventured from tranquil ponds and running streams to the thick forests of pine and fern to the flourishing meadows below our house.
We frequently circled the reservoir, taking in the frosty fragrance of the surrounding mint. Monte would reach his hand over the concrete ledge to pull me up those last treacherous lichen entombed stones. Together, we leaned over the mossy water and watched the tadpoles scurry between our grasping fingers. We’d slide our fingers over the velvety algae coated sides of the reservoir and pull up strings of deep green slime and toss them to the center of the aqua pool, watching the fish nibble at our meager morsels.
I was forbidden to swim there. It could have been the age difference or the fact that he was a boy that gave him the approval of my parents. I watched him dive and whirl in the crisp cool water throughout those hot summer months. From the sides, I kicked and splashed with hopes of connecting with him through the deep. Our laughter rippled like the water’s surface and echoed through the grove of poplar and oak. I lived for the times Monte placed me on his lap and paddled the inner tube across those forbidden waters. Unlike my mother, I never feared we’d drown.
We moved on from the reservoir to the emerald pools of the soapstone quarries. Again, I was not allowed to swim. I lived through my brother. I watched him search for treasure beneath the giant boulders. I held my breath and tasted the earthy bottom in his every dive. My body sighed in relief each time I saw his bubbles burst upon the surface. I heard the tiny plops as the fish emerged around the whoosh of his rising body. I inhaled the pungent sediment from the murky bottom as he stepped from the water. The cool breeze whipped against my bare legs as he shook the water from his skin. I both envied his freedom and exhilarated in his experiences.
I was still quite young when he moved away. Minnow bucket and fishing reel in tow, he popped in throughout the years. I was finally allowed to swim, but splashing and diving had been replaced with fishing. I never really liked fishing, but still I tagged along. We sat there, side by side; he in his world and me in mine. When I found my own freedom, I dropped fishing all together.
Bound by blood and water, we continued to live out our days. He cast his line from river bank to river bank, and I drifted out to sea. He ground his boat upon the rocks and decided he was not a seafaring man. I refused to spend my afternoons on a riverbank with minnows and worms when my peace was found Oceanside.
Though we never connected in the deep as I’d hoped, I see his reflection all over my life as we are here so many years later being pulled in and pushed out by the tide. We are both fighting against the crashing of the waves as they are pounding upon my brother. Cancer. Terminal. Growing rapidly. One month. I feel like we are drowning. My mother’s fear has come back to haunt me. I fail to see the green in this situation. Cancer is black, pulling us under, as slick and unyielding as an oil spill. I ramble through the leaves of memory, knowing there is no return to our verdant days of childhood innocence. I fling my memories in with the minnows, nibbling away at me, and together they dart in and out of my heart. If the roles were reversed, Monte would tell me to climb on his tube and hold on tightly.
I have no lifeline for my brother to hang onto, only my hand. No matter how swiftly the river runs, I’ll hold him as the river twists and turns through the grassy fields on his way back home.