This day will be memorable because you’re missing
by Donald K. Sanders
There are four events that will make this day memorable for me. Hurricane Sandy is swiftly approaching the East Coast of the United States. An Italian court sentenced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in jail for tax fraud, but later cut it to one year because of an amnesty law. Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning to one of the first roles to make him a star — Conan the Barbarian! Last but not least, Michael died.
Michael has been slowly dying for some time now. He slowly killed himself with every gulp of whisky he swallowed and every puff of his non-filtered cigarettes. I, and everyone else that loved him, watched him die in increments, day after day, for years. In the end, he was a living skeleton, writhing in pain in his bed. He could not arise to go to the bathroom without help, but still, he drank his whisky.
His whisky came to him by taxicab. Michael would pay the driver to come and get his money, go to the liquor store to pick it up, and finally, return to his house to deliver the liquid that would kill him. By my best estimation, a pint of whisky would cost him $40 or $50. Michael’s back yard was littered with empty bottles.
The mere suggestion that he slow down or quit his drinking sent him into a rage. While raging, he cared little about the feelings of others, even those that he loved. Even at the very end, he thought he was fully functional and capable of his daily chores that were done by others for many months without his even knowing or caring.
It broke my heart in two every single time I went to visit him. It became a punishment for me for past sins I suppose. I could not bear to watch him slowly die, but it was even harder for me to stay away, and I could not do so. Michael was my brother. He was the one person who has been with me for all but a few months of my long life.
So that was today, but I cannot help but think about yesterday and the yesterdays before that. For over 60 years, we were inseparable friends, life companions, and brothers. Everything he went through, I went through as well. When he got sick, I got sick. When he got angry, chances are, I got angry as well. We did everything together.
We shared friends and enemies. He was a Marine and I was Army. Everything we did was very close, very close. The day I arrived in Vietnam was the day he was to leave. Both of us lived in an unimaginably horrible war zone that broke us both in spirit and mind. Years of drug abuse was the rest of our story.
Now, I am alone, without words to say, so I will lean on Bruce Springsteen to say them for me in the words of his song, “You’re Missing.” It goes sort of like this:
“Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall. Anna’s in the kitchen, baby and all.
Coffee cups on the counter, jackets on the chair. Papers on the doorstep, you’re not there
Pictures on the nightstand, TV’s on in the den. Your house is waiting, your house is waiting
For you to walk in, for you to walk in, but you’re missing, you’re missing
You’re missing when I shut out the lights. You’re missing when I close my eyes.
You’re missing when I see the sun rise. Children are asking if it’s all right, will you be in our arms tonight?
Morning is morning, the evening falls. I have too much room in my head, too many phone calls saying, ‘How’s everything, everything?’
God’s drifting in heaven, devil’s in the mailbox. I’ve got dust on my shoes and nothing but teardrops.