The jokes flowed freely today at work as everyone teased a co-worker on this, his 39th birthday.  He took the jokes good naturedly, but admitted that the thought of turning 40 in a year is not sitting very well with him.  Today is also what would have been my brother Mike’s 53rd birthday – a birthday that he will never see.  Memories of his funeral came back to me.  Grief did not allow me to speak publicly of Mike’s life on that day.   If I could go back in time here is what I would have said.

The third child of four, Mike was my father’s clone.  Long and lanky, he was athletically graceful on the little league field and the playground.  He struggled in school, preferring any type of physical activity to a book and my father always said with pride “that boy will work with his hands.  And, in fact, he followed in my father’s footsteps and drove a truck for a living.  He was the son that my father called upon to assist with carpentry projects and to change the oil in the car. 

Simple past times gave him great pleasure.  The intricacies of pinochle escaped him.  Poker was his game.   He would sit and play for hours, smoking cigarette after cigarette, amassing stacks of dimes and quarters with ease.   All dogs and a guy named Lippy were his best friends.  He was his mother’s son and like her, bowling was his sport of choice.  He threw the ball hard and fast down the lane scaring the pins into submission.  

His off-the-wall sense of humor and loopy laugh made others smile.  A happy kid, he also had a volcanic temper and would come out swinging hard when things didn’t go his way.  My nose can still feel the sting of his fist to this day.  But every Mother’s Day he planted Mom’s annual garden, setting out barrels of fire engine red geraniums surrounded by wavy white petunias and flowing vincas.  

His wife Doreen was older than Mike and he was supremely happy on his wedding day.  Their move to Sandwich and the transition to small town life agreed with him but the idyllic life was short-lived.  Section after section of his colon was replaced with a colostomy bag, his health deteriorated rapidly but he never lost his cheer.  At one point he thought he had it beat and refused further treatment.   That was his downfall and the cancer, seeing its opening, moved in for the kill.  

Mike died on May 10th, the date of my parent’s wedding anniversary.  It also happened to coincide with Mother’s Day that year, forever making those occasions’ difficult days.  Each Mother’s Day my brother Bob and I carry on Mike’s tradition, taking Mom to the nursery to buy annuals and plant her garden.   I am sure we don’t do it to Mike’s exact liking, but still I feel he is pleased.



  1. Comment by Susan Kozem

    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Kathy, thanks for sharing… I wish I knew him.

  2. Comment by Susan Kozem

    Posted on September 8, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Kathy, thanks for sharing… I wish I knew him.

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