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Alan D Busch

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My Brother Does Not Look Like My Father
By Alan D Busch
Friday, April 17, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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a chapter from my manuscript about the last several months of my father's life.

My Brother Does Not Look Like My Father

My brother Ron cooked spaghetti on Saturday mornings for

the two of us when our mother was at the beauty parlor. He

had always been a “take charge’ kind of guy who preferred

using Open Pit Barbecue Sauce on his pasta instead of

concocting his own special blend, but that was okay with me.

I’ve loved Open Pit ever since.

Ron did, I guess in the great tradition of older brothers

everywhere whose parents had divorced, assume the role of

surrogate dad. And, it made sense because-as it happened-he

was always bigger and stronger than I. He looked out for me

and you know what? I rather liked it. Our relationship was

straight out of “Leave It To Beaver” but without Ward

Cleaver-our parents had divorced, and though we visited with

our father no more than three-four times a year, he was

forever able to cement and reinforce a very strong bond

between us.


It will not surprise you to know I look like, dress like, emote

and sound like my father. I am my father’s son, as is my older

brother Ron but who looks like our mother although not nearly

as pretty.


Our father’s illness brought us back together after a

hiatus of many years. We had never before faced any problem

of this magnitude, but of my brother Ron, I can say it was an

pleasure to get to know him again.  i had never known Ron

beforeas an adult, a grown up, caring and loving son to our father.


Ron and I spent the better part of a Wednesday afternoon

with our father at his dental office. He’s closing it down after

more than a half century of business. Though he enjoyed an

all too brief improvement after his first hospitalization, he

knows he can no longer treat patients due primarily to his

neurapathy.* Though he has been practicing dentistry in

Chicago since 1950, (“One of these days, I’ll get it right,” he

often quips with an irrepressible smile.) he accepts his

involuntary retirement as he does his cancer, with grace.

Taxicabs

Nattily dressed in suit, a freshly laundered and starched white

dress shirt with French cuffs, with matching silk tie and

handkerchief (stuffed in his outer breast suit pocket with just

the right panache), topped off by a black straw fedora, my

father looked that day as he had always and as far back as I can

remember.


The three of us hailed a cab home that afternoon-actually it

was Dad who stood at the curb and waved his hand while

attempting a shrill whistle. For some unknown reason, my

father could never whistle well though I guess he thought he did.

What came out invariably was more spittle than whistle.

Ron and I always thought that enormously funny, never

disrespectfully, just in good fun. You know what I mean.

“Eleven ten north Michigan please,” my father directs the cab

driver. We have ridden in cabs many times together, but

today was the first time in many a year. Dad fell asleep almost

instantaneously, Ron opened his copy of Ekhart Tolles’ new book and ...


I was six years old, my brother eight when the three of us left

Dad’s office at 25 E. Washington Street on the east side of

Chicago’s Loop. We would hail a yellow or green Checker

Marathon cab. Failing that and, should one arrive first, we’d

hop on the bus. Frankly, I preferred the cab although It never

ceased to amuse us to watch Dad fall asleep while hanging on

to the “standees’ strap”. Naturally, a taxicab was the preferred

choice because it had two distinctive folding jump seats

anchored to the floor for additional passenger seating. Great

for kids. “’Fellas’, always enter and exit the taxi on the

curbside,” Dad faithfully reminded us. My father was an

effective teacher who chose his pragmatic life lessons carefully

and hammered them home. They remain with me to this day.

He awoke
one half block before our arrival. Ron marked his

page. “Son, get out on the curb side,” he reminded

me, pointing toward the right passenger door with the thumb

of his right hand as if he were hitch-hiking. “Yes Dad. I know,”

I reassure him. Even though I’m fifty-four years old and have

been exiting from the curb side ever since I was six and sitting

on the folding jump seat in the back of the old Marathon

cabs, it annoyed me a bit. I glanced at Ron whose shrugged

shoulders and faint smile reminded me that some things

simply do not change. Then again, maybe Dad and I had had

the same dream.


It was getting late in the afternoon around 4:30.  I got up to

leave for home around 5 o’clock. Ron walked me to the front

door I could see our father reading the paper at the kitchen

table. His wife, Bobbie, sat across from him.

“So, Alan, any words?” Ron asked.

“None at the moment,” I responded, hoping to preclude an

emotional scene.

“God, I feel so … so guilty about leaving, but I’ve got to get

home,” Ron confessed in an undertone. “I understand,” I

reassured him. My brother Ron feels bad. He’s got it tougher

than I do. I can see Dad anytime I wish and do. I visit with him

three days a week, and I think he’d agree this has been the best

time we’ve ever spent together. Ron, however, lives in St.

Louis. Not far away, to be sure, a one hour flight. Still, it

worries him.

“What if,” my brother’ voice quivered … “what if this is the

last time?”

“No, no. Not going to happen. Not now,” I insisted, my tone

rising as if in denial of that realistic possibility. “Dad is a

pugilist, Ron, remember? He’s a boxer, a fighter, you know.”

(As a matter of fact, my father had been a “golden gloves”

boxer in his youth).


Though Ron is only eighteen months older than I am, that

difference has always defined our relationship. It was an odd,

yet defining moment. I sensed a shift between us. For the very

first time, I was “taking care” of Ron-who had forever been

my big brother and a darn good one too.

“Hey listen, call me if you want to get together tonight,” I

clumsily changed the topic.

“I’d like to but I’d better not.”

“Listen, we’ll talk,” I reassured him.

I picked up my computer bag. “Dad, we’ll talk later.”


That’s how it ended that day. Actually there wasn’t an ending,

just a “to be continued”. Our father was sick. We knew where

it would take him and … us. For the moment, he had taken

some steps forward. We were doing our best to honor him.

Somehow it made sense and I think we felt pretty good about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Reviewed by Cryssa C 4/20/2009
The work was not what I expected by the title...it was much better...and it made perfect sense to have that line be the title. Enjoyable piece filled with many emotions.

Cryssa
Reviewed by Linda Settles 4/20/2009
Wonderful. A complete joy to read.


Linda




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