Monday, May 29, 2006


Memorial Day.

I don't need a day to remember the dead. I live with the memories every day. Memories that seem to live in the here and now.

My oldest brother Keith, for instance, gone from us for ten years now, the victim of a freak accident. When I was little, he and I were very close, and his impact on me was profound. He was a fountain of knowledge on Hammer Films and Warner Bros. cartoons, he introduced me to the music of George Gershwin and Aaron Copland and Charles Ives, he loved musicals and pulp fiction authors and Peter Sellers. And he took me to see Stanley Kubrick's 2001 for the first time, the single experience which changed me from the person I was to the person I am.

He not only knew stuff, he could explain it to me. He knew which Warner Bros. cartoons I liked best, and I discovered they all had one name in common, Chuck Jones, but I didn't know what that meant. He told me Jones was a director, and also an artist, and I responded to his stuff for the same reason I liked certain comic book artists, simply because I liked the way they could draw. But, he reminded me, most of Jones' cartoons had another name in common, writer Michael Maltese. Those jokes don't come out of nowhere, somebody had to write them. He took me to see Return of the Pink Panther and while going on about the genius of Peter Sellers, also explained, while we were watching the movie, how director Blake Edwards was setting up the jokes.

As I got older, things changed. Keith had a short temper, and an increasingly pronounced cruel streak, and it became harder to ignore this and harder to forgive. There was no big break, no spectacular outburst, but gradually he and I stopped talking. He got married, had kids, lived his own life. Even later, at infrequent family reunions, when I was myself married, we didn't talk.

When Mom called to tell me Keith had died, my first thought was, oh, we never reconciled. But then I thought, no, there was no need for reconciliation, because we'd never really broken apart in the first place. Each of us got what we needed from the other, then we drifted apart.

Not a day goes by without a Gershwin tune drifting through my mind. Many of my everyday catchphrases are old Michael Maltese lines. I have a shelf full of nothing but Peter Sellers movies.

I could go put a flower on Keith's grave today, but I won't. Just living my life seems tribute enough. There's no way I'd be the person I am today if he hadn't shown me the way.