I've been thinking a lot about my brother lately. Not sure what is triggering the increase in thoughts about him. I mean he is always there in the back of my mind, in a place I don't really want to go. Not yet. Maybe not ever, but probably will have to at some point.
When he first died I was devastated. He was too young to die. It was too sudden. He was going to fight, and we were going to help him, and he was going to win, again. He was tougher than cancer. And he showed the will to live, that's all it took for me to believe he had to survive since he had the desire.
Michael and I had a complicated relationship, I think there are more people that could say the same thing. He had a special few that had a one of a kind relationship with Michael, they got each other. I didn't always get Michael, and I KNOW he didn't always get me.
I grew up seeing him from a distance. He was pretty much out of the house by the time I had the ability to remember. He went into the Army, he went to Berkely School of Music, he worked at a recording studio. To me he was a rock star. There was a distance between us, again I think many people could say that about Michael. I mean if you went to his local haunts you couldn't find one person who had a bad thing to say about Mike Mullaney. "He was a character." "He was a great guy!" Most people knew him better than I did, or did they? I think they knew an aspect of Michael better than I did. I knew Michael in different capacities. I knew him as my older brother. I knew him as my fun drinking buddy. I knew him as a thinker. As an atheist. A guy who loved his vodka lemonades and his Newports. He loved to get out on the pond and fish, always catch and release. I knew a guy who loved his solitude, but didn't necessarily love himself. He was complex, and for that I always felt there was a disconnect between us, yet such a similarity it was undeniable we were cut from the same cloth. He didn't like to go certain places when it came to talk. Other times he loved to push me to talk about things that I did not want to talk about. He could piss me off like no one else could. He could hurt my feelings. He could cut me out. And he could distance himself like no other.
I looked up to him. I loved his love of books and history. His knowledge of business and his philosophical views. He didn' often get talking to me about these things, I mostly thought he assumed I wasn't deep enough, I wouldn't get it. That it wouldn't be a worthwhile conversation because I didn't have much to offer. I often felt he didn't give me enough credit. I don't think I gave him enough either. I resented him for his purposeful distancing of his family.
He was Mike, and he was Michael. Anyone in the family will know exactly what I mean by that. His friends who didn't know him around his biological family woudln't have recognized him as he sat in my Mother's living room. Tight-lipped Michael staring at the TV, answering questions in yes or no format. Very seldom did he take my Mom up on her offer to feed him or give him something to take home. He was stoic. We would practically light ourselves on fire trying to engage him, but to no avail.
Then there was Mike, the life of the party. The guy who could tell a joke or a story and banter with the best of 'em. He was like Norm, he'd walk into one of his favorite places and everyone knew him. He would remember details from the last chat he had with someone and he would ask how their kid was who went to UMASS or how their Mom was who was in the hospital. He was charismatic and communicative. He was fun and funny. He was relaxed and himself.
I'm not sure if the real Mike was somewhere in the middle. I experienced both, and I loved both. Sometimes I even hated both.
To even venture into that place in my mind where I don't want to go would be to believe that he is gone, and I can't do it. It brings me to the days he was so sick and so anxious thinking about what might be in store, it is to see him in that bed in Boston, that chair with a thumbs up after surgery, to be in that room when the doctors, through tears, told us just how bad it really was. It's to go through one of the worst days of our lives and I am NOT going there right now, not yet.
I think I'd rather be sitting in my Mom's living room trying to get a word or a smile out of him, or down at the pub having a drink and listening to him talk to the old gang.
Fact is, I don't ever want to go to that place in my mind. What I want is to wake up and know that it was all a terrible nightmare. I want to pick up the phone and ask "Is Mike Mullaney available please?" and hear "He's out to lunch, can I have him call you when he gets back?"