Today would have been my brother’s birthday. He died suddenly in December of 2008. He was my younger brother by 2 years. And I loved introducing him as “my little brother”. You see what made that such a funny way to introduce him was the fact that he was 6 feet 4 inches tall. He wasn’t little. In High School his nickname was “rhino” – he was big. But I remember him more as Jimbo, my little brother. He had a great sense of humor which wasn’t always appreciated by my mom. When my mom would be disciplining him, many times he would answer in some strange accent. Pretending he was German ala Colonel Kling of Hogan’s Heros or Pakistani. He loved to tease my mom about being an alien because she had a green card. He would actually call her “mum” and speak of the “mother country”.
My brother and I were very different. During our teen years, I thought he was weird. I was really into ballet so to me “to live was to dance, to dance was to live”. He enjoyed watching Star Trek with my dad. He read Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. He would see films and talk about the symbolism. He wore earth shoes, a chaftan and had long hair for a few years. He loved Monty Python and George Carlin. He would talk about politics and government. He didn’t really like school. One year, he had the same teacher for science that I had for chemistry and my parents didn’t really believe him that the teacher was bad until I started to complain about the same teacher. Guess that proves, the old adage about crying wolf or it shows I was “goody two shoes”. When my brother turned 18, he walked into the guidance office and asked to see his “file.” He said he was now considered an adult and should know what was written in it. They weren’t amused.
My brother would go to college, fall in love, get married, start his career and have a child before I even left home. In my eyes, he was the adventurer. In August of 2001, he and his wife would move back to the East Coast. And that would prove to be such a blessing to me. In the days, weeks and months following September 11, he was there for me, my girls and my parents. In October of 2001, we were invited to the Concert for New York. My daughters wanted to go so I invited my brother and sister-in-law to join us. Actually, I figured my brother would be “good protection” if something went wrong. I remember my sister-in-law brought us all ear plugs – great idea.There were bands and celebrities that I recognized and some my daughters knew and I didn’t. At one point in the concert, my older daughter turned to me and said “who is that?”, I said “The Who”, she said “who??”. Still makes me chuckle.
On December 9, 2008, I was driving home from the studio and I drove through Boston Market to pick up some dinner. My cell phone rang and it was my sister. She said “Are you driving?”, I responded “yes”. She said “I will talk to you later”. I said “hold on” and pulled to the side of the road. And then she said something that was so unbelievable that it didn’t even make the list of bad things you think could happen. She said “James is dead” Who, What, How??? This may sound silly but I have never gone back to that Boston Market. I remember the date so easily because my sister’s birthday is December 10. Scripture says “sorrow lasts for a night but joy comes in the morning”. That verse had been important to me after Sept 11 but after my brother’s death it holds even more meaning.
You know what I remember most about my little brother. I remember the big hug he gave me the last time I saw him which was on Thanksgiving. He gave great hugs. I remember him walking down the street to the Tribute Center to visit me one day when he was also in Manhattan. Because he was so tall you could see him coming from the top of the block. I also remember a note from him and his wife in April of 1984, that said “we know you have just bought a house, and we know that unforseen expenses can come up and we want you to know that we would gladly help if you need it.” I cried when I read that 28 years ago and that offer of help still makes me cry today.
I miss you Jimbo, my little brother.
It was a beautiful tribute to James…..I just learned many new things about my cousin James, I am so glad you shared them…It strikes me as so strange and sad that I know you and Christine so well but James being a guy, I did not get as many opportunities to spend with him. The reality of course was, I was a silly little (girl) cousin that ALSO loved ballet….His thoughts may have been….I already have a few of those types at home, thanks! My reality regarding James was he was a huge, intelligent man with a nice smile that was always out and about doing something more interesting than I would have a clue about. 🙂
I did spend time with James at Emily’s wedding and I remember reflecting that he was taking on the patriarchal role and performing the duties very well. He was warm, kind and we had some fun talking about our family traits and the “Green” in all of us.
James gave me one of those great hugs you were talking about…I feel very lucky and blessed that I have it to remember him by….
Susan, thanks for sharing your thoughts. When I woke up this morning, I thought “oh darn, I forgot to include the memory of James asking me to dance at Emily’s wedding.” Yes, he was easing into that patriarchal role and performing the duties well. And then within weeks of Emily’s wedding my dad had his stroke. So strange how things play out. Hugs to the Manzi clan and your folks.
Oh, James was just a big ole teddy bear. I loved teasing him by simply saying, “Hey James, Do I hear a waltz???” We would share a secret smile. Loved him. Miss him.
wow,Ann,you should put this into a book of some sort,,I had an older brother,Terry,he died suddendly when I was 23,
Eileen, Thank you for your kind words. I am so sorry to hear that we both share the experience of losing a brother. Losing a sibling is such a strange thing. You think about that some day your parents will die but I never thought about my sibling not being there. My brother died of a blood clot.