(A guest blog from Mr. Edward Goode, Chicago, Illinois)
When my telephone rang at 5am or so Tuesday, December 3, I was surprised to hear the caller tell me that Lewis Goode was unresponsive. She was calling from the Bay Area nursing home that his daughter found for him a couple of years earlier.
“Unresponsive”? I couldn’t imagine my brother being unresponsive; he was always “the life of the party”, the teen whose saxophone playing made his ambition to be “an entertainer” seem a reasonable ambition. Of the two of us, he was the one mastered the “Erector Set” challenge, painted by numbers, adopted gold fish, and persuaded our parents to get us puppies, a brown one for him and a black one for me. Lewis was my only brother, 15 months separated our birthdays, but though we were enough alike as boys to hear adults ask if we were twins;, he fat and me skinny, we were as different in character as our pets were in color.
Some might say our relationship was marred by “sibling rivalry”, I’d say, my jealousy. I envied him the spotlight he owned; the dance steps he commanded, and the friends he kept in his orbit. I had none of those qualities.
Though we slept in the same room, we went our separate ways when awake. I’d be the first to leave for school, so I’d get home early enough to see him dressed in a shirt, jacket or tie that was mine. So I’d attack saying, “Don’t wear my stuff!” We’d run through the apartment with Lewis tossing anything including chairs to prevent me from pummeling him hard and fast as punishment for wearing or using my stuff and though he always lost those fights, he’d wear or use something of mine whenever he wanted to.
Our family knew our fraternal connection wasn’t ideal. I remember our mother telling us not to fight and as we got older to remember to give each other birthday gifts. Thank God or Madeline Goode or both that we were faithful to each other on that score.
We both moved away from Boston after graduating high school. Lewis entered the Air Force and afterwards came back as damaged goods. Alcohol was a crutch and unpaid loans as well as larceny a source of cash.I don’t remember when we actually stopped fighting, but we never connected as I imagine other siblings connect, but we always, always remembered each other’s birthday. He had a knack for selecting just the card whose humorous message communicated a truth so profound that absorbing it would cause my heart to skip a beat and my breathing to deepen.
Our parents divorced before I began first grade and though we boys were required visit our father and our paternal grandparents on Sundays, Daddy never paid any real attention to us except for the time he gave us a significant portion of his model railroad setup. Francis Goode wasn’t a good Dad..
It turns out Lewis was a model Dad. His daughter, Rima, was so much a “Daddy’s girl” that after she found him living in Kansas City in squalor that broke her heart, she found a Bay Area nursing home near enough to where she lived in Berkley to enable twice a week visits. There were days when he was so desperate for his drinking buddies that he accused Rima of kidnapping him, but Rima wasn’t intimidated; she wanted the best for her father and provided him with accommodation in the nursing home, along with treats for his sweet tooth , and day trips to spice up his life.
There was no funeral; his body was cremated and then buried. I’ve kept many of his birthday cards and will sigh a special sigh when I get no birthday card from my brother and again on September 13 when I will send no birthday card to Lewis.
What are you reading? I have just finished reading Mark Doty’s, FIRE TO FIRE. Great book. Now reading Gish Jen’s, TIGER WRITER, print version of the Massey lectures she gave last year at Harvard. Really enjoying the book. She is an amazing writer, intellectual, and humorist.