Today marks one year since my brother, Scott Whitebird, died.
Of course, he was gone before his body died. He was gone from us as soon as his head hit the tile floor after falling backwards from the first steps of the stairs. His wife, Dianne, got to his side mere seconds after hearing the crash and found him unconscious on the floor, bleeding from his ear. They got him to the ER within minutes — but he never regained consciousness.
I do remember feeling like I could still sense him as a presence for a day or two — and then that sensation of his consciousness faded away.
I’ve been thinking I would blog about him today but now I find myself stymied. I thought about putting his recorded singing voice on some blank video to share some high school-era recording clips, but I have not managed to do that. I almost feel as fragile as I turned out to be on his birthday last year, when I was basically angry and useless all day.
See, the pain is still there though it surfaces less frequently. I still find myself angry at him for not being here. I’m still striving for acceptance. But it’s still hard to accept living in a world without my brother. While I still feel his presence every day, I fully feel his absence as well. It doesn’t make sense. How could it? How can I explain the unexplainable?
See, my brother was always there for every day of my life, no matter where he was. Living a world without him there still feels strange and foreign to me.
Besides, what’s to say? My brother is dead. I still can’t believe it. I miss calling him just to talk.
I finally did read the manuscript of his novel, The Red Hand. His unfinished novel, The Red Hand, that is. He was tantalizingly close to completing this book of his. I know he had been enjoying writing it after carrying some of it in his head for years. His characters come to life and pop off the page. The elements that echo his own life — the death of a young girl and the dissolution of the parents’ marriage — do manage to take on a life of their own. He eerily evoked the feeling of pre-WWII intrigue involving labor strikes, American Nazis, anarchists, saboteurs, and the military’s secret machinations, climaxing with the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.
And I was left hanging, wondering what happens to them all. Dianne has a friend who is an editor by trade read it to see if it might be something that someone else could finish — but it’s not. There was still a lot of polish to add to even the completed portions and the ending just trickling off after the story has advanced so far through action feels like a mixture of “choose your own adventure” and a disappointment.
I’ve decided to think of it as Scott’s victory lap. He taught for 30 years during which time he did not write. When he finally retired, he started writing again, returning to his early love. He took a dedicated approach to it, setting aside his daily writing time and guarding it jealously. He even once annoyed Dianne by saying he could not help her at a particular time because it was his writing time. She understood but was also understandably annoyed. I had to time my phone calls to avoid infringing on his writing hours, and I learned to catch him just before he got going.
Well, Larry McMurtry wrote of the somewhat hollow feeling of seeing his first book in print. He had imagined the moment and felt certain he would practically burst with pride upon seeing his own words in black-and-white print in a real book. He didn’t. In both his memoir dedicated to his writing, Literary Life, and through his fictional alter ego, Danny Deck in “All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers,” he decides instead that his true love and enjoyment comes from the writing itself — in an apparent reversal of Dorothy Parker’s often quoted phrase, “I hate writing; I love having written.” I know Scott enjoyed writing The Red Hand, probably as much as I enjoyed reading it.
Anyway, Scott will be on my mind today. Then again, even when he isn’t — he is. He will always be a part of my heart.