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My brother Joe.

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

As most of you know, my brother passed away unexpectedly on April 1. It was a very sad event for me and my family and I thank you all for the support we have received this month. Sincerely.

I did learn a few things during this experience:

  • My wife is amazing in a crisis. I cannot express how much I appreciated her presence there… especially when on the Great Buddha Hunt.
  • My family, which has an unusually large number of control freaks, showed incredible flexibility. Even the funeral director commented that he doesn’t usually see that kind of cooperation in planning services.
  • Sympathy cards seem to come in only two colours: lavender and mint green.
  • I never tire of sandwiches.

Seriously though, my brother will be greatly missed in my family and his community. The school district he worked in flew their flags at half mast and one of the teachers drove around town taking photos of all the schools so we could see it. There were 300+ people at his memorial despite the snow storm (cursed Albertan springs) and the speeches made by his friends, family and co-workers were very touching. It was very apparent that Joe had made a lasting impression on those who knew him. Even friends of mine were emailing me with their fond memories of my brother from when we were younger.

He will definitely be missed by many. I have copied my eulogy below as that seems to sum it up the best for me. Thank you again for your support during this difficult time… especially you Rebel.

What do you say about your sibling? How do you adequately express your sibling relationship? I didn’t know so I did what I always do, I Googled it. The results of a search on “brother sister relationship” produced a list of birth order studies that said older siblings (ie: Joe) are on average 3-5 IQ points smarter than their younger siblings. So I threw that out and started again.

I read what other people were writing on the condolences website and in the sympathy cards we were receiving and the emails we received. “He’s a kind and gentle man.” “He was a wonderful and kind man.” “He was intelligent and one of the kindest people I knew.” I highly anticipate that you will hear a number of people speak about him today and they will all say that he was a good person, kind – yes, gentle – yes, intelligent – yes. And sincerely, this is true. But these people are all talking to you about Joe as an adult. I’m here to tell you about Joe as a child.

When I was still in diapers, Joe fed me Lite Brite pegs. Honestly, I don’t personally remember this. I wasn’t hurt and it was likely more traumatic for my mother who was changing my diaper and trying to figure out how the little plastic pieces got in there.

And that was it. That is really all I can think of that Joe did deliberately to torture me and he was probably five at the time. The truth is that Joe as he’s described as an adult, is how he was as a child.

I’ve heard endless stores from my friends and even strangers that detail the infinite ways that they tortured or were tortured by their siblings. At some point, I stopped thinking of these people as isolated cases – I started realizing that they were the norm and that I was insanely lucky to live in my family and have Joe as a brother.

Joe was four years older than me. Most older brothers, when not torturing their younger siblings, were busy ignoring them. Joe never did. Joe mentored me throughout my school years and befriended me in adulthood. I attribute any success I’ve had in life, especially scholastically, to my family and specifically to my brother. Starting in Junior High, Joe would help me study for my exams. He would read through my textbook and notes and ask me questions on it. If I couldn’t remember something, he would create a joke or acronym or something to help me remember it. He would also ask me to help him study in the same way. I would look through his texts and notes and ask him questions. Being continually exposed to academic materials four levels higher than I was at had to have had an influence on my scholastic achievements. And studying was actually fun – who knew?

When I went to my first day at high school, it was Joe who took me. He showed me around and introduced me to the teachers. I tried hard to emulate him – I even joined the Reach For The Top team like he did, although it certainly wasn’t as easy as he made it look so I didn’t last terribly long at it. I quit and joined the soccer team.

My first year in university, my brother walked me through the course selection and registration process. He arranged it so my first class started no earlier than 10am, my last class finished no later than 2pm and I had an hour for lunch. Those 8am classes were for other first year suckers who didn’t have a brother like mine.

Joseph also tried to teach me to drive. I had heard somewhere (not from Joe) that the point of a traffic circle over a traditional intersection was that you didn’t have to stop. Of course that meant after safely entering the traffic circle and yielding to the people already in it, but I didn’t get that part. So after I took Joe through my first traffic circle, Joe decided to leave further instruction to the professionals.

Aside from driver education, Joe was instrumental in most of my firsts. He forged the trail for me by getting me my first job at a poster shop in Kingsway Garden Mall where he was working. He conscripted me to play on his slo-pitch team and patiently whacked balls at me until I got over my fear of being hit in the head.

He took me to my first concerts (Tears for Fears and Howard Jones) and introduced me to music that none of my peers were listening to – and he taught me the finer points of making a mixed tape. There is an art in how much time to leave between songs and how to arrange the songs so that they are properly “mixed”. He even told me which RUSH song to pick for my school project so that I would get an A, and I did.

Joe was the first person in my family that I came out to. I’m not sure the majority of you can appreciate how big a deal that is, but it’s almost impossible to communicate the significance of that and how excruciating and terrifying that moment can be. But Joe, as usual, made it no big deal. In his eyes, nothing at all had changed about me or about us.

My life has been easy. Almost every step I took was supported by my family and guided by my brother. I have achieved success because Joe was not my sibling rival, but because he was my ally and friend. And to have an ally that you respect and admire as much as I respect and admire Joe is a privilege that I have been lucky to have had. I know without a doubt that Joe would always be there for me – I didn’t have to be afraid of any unexpected life hurdle as Joe was just a phone call away.

I always thought Joe would be the one constant in my life – They say that your sibling relationship is the longest one you’ll have. It’s hard to comprehend that he will no longer be a part of my life – that we will never laugh together or watch tv together or just be silly together again. I will miss him every single day.

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.”

Categories: Family

We have poltercats.

April 22, 2012 Leave a comment

When I was in the hospital in January, the wife bought me a pair of slippers. Since they were so soft and comfy, she bought herself a pair too. So we have four identical fuzzy bootie slippers. When I checked out of the hospital, we washed the icky hospital germs off and put them on the floor near the closet in the guest room.

In the days to follow, we noticed that a slipper would somehow migrate from the guest room to the hall or to our bedroom or downstairs. We didn’t know how the happened but suspected a cat.

Sure enough, one day we see Zeke standing on the slipper. He has it between his teeth and is kneading it with his back paws. He is so happy “dominating” the slipper that he is purring.

Mystery solved. Sort of.

Every day, one to three slippers migrate out of the closet into another room. One day we came home to find the slipper on our bed with Zekey sleeping on top of it (see photo). Somehow, he got the slipper on the bed. We don’t know how.

Fact is, we have never actually seen him carrying the slipper. It’s been three months of daily slipper migration and we’ve never seen how he moves it around. It’s some kind of kitty magic. Or The wife is playing a very elaborate joke on me.

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