Posted by: ritagone | April 25, 2018

My Brother

My brother died last week.

We were not close, never had been, even as children.  There are lots of reasons for this, none of which I want to get into now.  What’s the point?  The good news is that we never fell out completely; when he returned from Japan and Germany after 20-year career in the Army and settled in Perris, California, about two hours from where I live, at least we stayed in touch via phone.  We saw each other at our mother’s funeral.  We talked to each other usually twice a year, on our birthdays, calling to wish the other a happy birthday and to catch up on our lives for a few minutes before we ran out of conversation topics.

I don’t think of my brother as a happy person.  He always seemed uncomfortable in his own skin.  He moved his family to Perris for one reason: there was a train museum located there, and he loved trains.  It meant that on the weekends, he could put on a conductor’s uniform and role play the part of a conductor as the small train travelled a mile along tracks, back and forth, back and forth, over and over again.  He loved it.  It was what he lived for, until severe diabetes took part of his leg and left him riding an electric scooter and unable to walk.  His conducting days were over.


He was a smoker, and even when he was diagnosed with COPD, he continued to smoke.  “I’m going to smoke until I die,” he told one of his daughters.  And he did.

He had three daughters, two living in California and one in South Carolina.  In the last segment of his life, he lived in a rehab facility because of his infirmities, while his Okinowan wife lived in the home in Perris which they had purchased decades before.

I was getting ready to call him this coming Saturday, April 28, to wish him a happy birthday.  He would have been 77.  Instead, I got a call from his middle daughter telling me he had passed away.

My biggest regret, as I’ve processed all of this that I can right now, is that I have not gotten to know his three daughters over the last decades, nor their spouses, nor their children or grandchildren.  My children don’t know their first cousins, or second, or third.  It’s a big chunk of family to not know about.  If my son or daughter and my nieces met on the street, they would not know one another.  That makes me terribly sad.

My niece and I talked a bit about him, and I said that he had had a tough childhood.  She said he had never talked about his childhood, ever, to his daughters.  So I offered at some point in the future to fill her or her sisters in on my perceptions of what his childhood was like for him from where I sat.  Jenny was very interested.  What child doesn’t want to know more about her parents?  I’m hoping now that that will be a doorway to more connection in the future with this family that I’ve had almost nothing to do with in the last 40 years.

I wish things could have been different between my brother and me.  I really do.  But how?  What could or should I have done differently that I didn’t do?  Probably quite a bit.  I’m still processing, still sorting it all out.  But hopefully there’s something positive that can grow from the relationships that still have some potential.  That’s my desire, and I hope it’s also the desire of my nieces.

We’ll see.


  1. I love that you reached out to his children, Rita. I hope this can be a new chapter with your nieces. Go for it. I think they are as hungry for it as you are. Praying for comfort for you on your grief journey with all of this. As you said, so much to process.

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