It comes and goes.
We’re laughing about something. We’ve spent the day together, hiking and wandering through downtown and watching a high school football game. That comfortable feeling you have with someone you have spent your life with.
We talk about tomorrow’s trip to see Uncle Bob. He pauses. “How do you know Bob?” He asks.
I’m your brother, I remind him.
His memory comes and goes. One minute we’re talking about the Pinky Outpost, our childhood sanctuary. The next, he’s asking if I ever saw the schoolhouse across the street from Granddad’s store. His eyes light up when I tell him there’s a new Patrick Dearen book out. He tells me stories about Pat and him hiking. A close call in the mountains when they ran out of water, missed the last bus back to civilization, and then escaped when the driver came back at the last minute to pick something up. Then he pauses to ask if ever met Pat. Yes, I tell him. We all used to go hiking together.
We walk down a trail in town lined with art. A lifelong lover of bluebonnets, he has concocted a scheme to scatter seeds along the trail, his miniature version of the Lady Bird Johnson campaign. We plot how to make it happen. I love this idea.
I know he is feeling such frustration. When he talks, sometimes he can’t find words. His head is still full of ideas and wonder and hilarity; he just has a harder time communicating them. And he forgets things. sometimes for a minute, sometimes forever. i desperately want to make it better, but I can’t. Nobody can.
He leads me across the college campus. He takes me to the new journalism department, June’s office, the student center. He knows every nook and cranny. Who knew there were this many crannies? He tells me about the time he laid the sod at the large, grassy area in the center of campus. Yes, I know, I tell him. I was there. I’m your brother.
It’s a wonderful day. I am honored to be in his company. Simply the nicest, most decent man you’d ever want to meet. Why has life done this to him?
We go to the opening football game of a little West Texas town. He was famous over the years for his coverage of Friday Night Football. I wonder how long it will take before somebody sees him. As it turns out, four rows.
“RICK! SIT DOWN! HAVE SOME PEANUTS!” A man waves him over. We sit down and he introduces me. “This is my brother Gary,” he tells him. “He worked at the paper too.” And just like that, he knows me again. But the guy isn’t interested in me. He gives Rick some more peanuts. “Bought ’em from Jimmy Carter,” he jokes. I am offered none. Yes, i am bitter. The whole row is excited to see him. The legend lives on.
Our team wins, the moon is bright, the weather is cool. It’s the high school game I always wanted to go to. The perfect end to a perfect day.
We sit in the living room at the end of the day. That was great, he says. What happens tomorrow? We go see Uncle Bob, I remind him. That’s right, he says. How do you know him, he asks again.
It’s a good day. I’m OK reminding him who I am when he forgets now and then. And relieved that maybe he will forget the bad stuff. That’s what brothers are for.
My heart is breaking. My heart is full.
It comes and goes.
One thing never changes. I love him a lot.
He’s my brother.