Sunday, October 5, 2008

Remembering my brother Tim

Today is a little bit off-topic. But, it is my I get to do that sometimes.

A year ago tomorrow (October 6), my brother Tim died. He was 45 years old. A sudden heart attack stole his life way too soon. This year has passed in a blur...sometimes it seems like it was yesterday and then other days it feels like a decade ago that I last spoke to my brother... even though in reality it was just a few weeks before his death.

my birthday 2003
Fourth of July 2001

Thanksgiving 2003

I was in Kitale for 3 weeks in the summer of 2007... from the end of August until the early part of September. I remember because I flew home on September 11. By the way... September 11 is a good day to fly because the planes are all pretty empty and security is really high. Anyway, I had been home only a few weeks when my world changed completely with the loss of my only sibling.


It is difficult to describe my relationship with my brother. In a word, it was unpredictable. Honestly, Tim could make me laugh more than anybody on the planet...

...and he could also make me madder than anybody, if he chose to. But, no matter how furious I was at him...I loved him with all of my heart. He was my little brother - all 6+ feet of him. He called me Lyd, one of the few people that was allowed to use that silly nickname. He was almost 5 years younger than me and when we were kids, he adored me and followed me everywhere calling me "sister dear"- so, so, so long ago. I can still hear his voice saying "I love you, Lyd." and I pray that I will always be able to remember that.

sister and brother

The past 3 years has been a time of devastating loss in my family - first my wonderful stepdad, Lew in July of 2005, then my mom's mom - my 'Gaga', at the beginning of 2007 and finally Tim last October.

Lew and Gaga

All that is left of my immediate family is mom and I. Yes, there is some extended family here and there, but the years have moved everybody to different places in life and geography and sadly, many have died as well. I remember the huge family gatherings when we were kids. Holidays are a time for family, but mom and I are pretty much alone now and these supposed-to-be festive times of year are pretty difficult to get through.

me and mom

I guess that is part of the reason that I love being in Kenya so much .... being surrounded by my kids is like having the giant family that I always wanted, but never had here in the states.

with a few of my Kenyan "sons" in July

So, today as every day, I remember my brother. I wish you had known him. He was smart and funny. He loved animals - so much that he couldn't bear to hear a sad story about one. When he was a little boy, he couldn't watch Lassie without crying.

He loved nature and being out in it. He was a surfer and a skateboarder from the time that skateboards were invented. He was always traveling off to some outdoor destination or another....and loved the ocean, the mountains and the desert equally.

Tim (yellow shirt) circa 1977

He was a sculptor and a painter and the art that he created the last few years of his life is powerful with the raw emotion that it portrays.

art by Tim

He was an expert on a vast array of things that most people know little about - art pottery, native plants of California, vintage neckties. We often remarked that he was born after his time. He was a renaissance man and was more comfortable with things that were from bygone eras...clothes, furnishings, music.


And he was very handsome. His eyes were the most startling shade of blue and his jaw was strong and square. He could have been a movie star if he had wanted to....combining those looks with his flair for the dramatic.


We shared a love of words and he expressed his deepest feelings through poetry. In the last few years of his life, he would occasionally pick up the phone (usually late at night) and call me to ask how to spell a certain word or to help him think of a synonym or to just read me a snippet of the latest poem he was working on. I think it was just an easy way to reach out to me which was something he wasn't all that comfortable doing. I often sensed that he felt that we were in some kind of competition. I never really will understand that.

He was a locksmith by trade, having taken over the family business from our dad. He didn't ever want to be a lockmith but somehow, he wound up being one and he was very skilled at it. He inherited our father's strong work ethic and was an amazingly hard worker when he put his mind to something. He was singlehandedly rebuilding his house bit by bit and sadly was only half finished when he died.


Tim had a vast circle of friends and acquaintances that were passionate about their relationship with him. He kept all of his friends, even those from when he was a kid and all of his old girlfriends. Well over a hundred people came to his memorial last year. They came from all over the country with only a few days notice. They wanted to talk about their love for him and share their memories and remember his smile and his goofy humor.

Even now, a year later, as the administrator of his estate....I often speak with the customers of his business who have just found out about his death and they tell me stories about kind deeds Tim did for them. One elderly Romanian lady told me that when she called Tim out to work on her locks once a year or so, that he would sit with her for hours - drinking her strong coffee and listening to her stories. She wept when she heard the news of his death. I have heard countless stories like this over the past year and they revealed a lot to me about the man that my brother was.

Honestly though, he wasn't a saint. He suffered from depression and was often a loner. During the dark times, he would try to push people away. They rarely stayed away, though.

He could be too loud and he loved to say things just for the shock value. That was Tim.


He didn't spend a lot of time with our family during the last decade or so of his life. When our father passed away on September 1, 1998; Tim was the one who discovered him dead in his bed. He never really recovered from that and I think that event caused him to pull away, not wanting to get too close to any of us - in case he lost us too. I was often mad at him for not spending more time with Mom. She understood. I didn't and I used up a lot of time that I could have spent with Tim being angry at him instead.

mom and Tim

I regret that we weren't closer as adults. I don't even have any photos of the two of us together after 2003. Life has a way of making you think that there will always be more time. We never really know how long we have with the people we love. I know you have heard this before - but don't waste time- take the time every day to show the people in your life that you love them. Make an effort to reach out to them when they are difficult and irritating and love them anyway. I wish I had done that with my brother and hopefully he knows that and forgives me for not being there for him.

Every few days I see or hear something that makes me think, "Oh Tim would love this!" and then I remember that I can't just pick up the phone and share it with him. Then I cry a bit. That part doesn't seem to be getting any better. I wonder if it ever will.

I love you and miss you Tim but I know that one day we will be together again.


1 comment:

Dawn Harkins said...

Beautifully written, so evocative and honest and fascinating. What a character! I so regret not knowing Tim as an adult--he sounds so interesting and quirky and silly and deep. I particularly love the sculpture with the cement blocks--I wonder if it is still around. If it is, it might be worth taking a few more pictures of it to save and share--it looks like serious art to me, I just love it. Much love to your and your mom from Cousin Dawn.