Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Brother's Promise...

 
(My turn getting eaten by the shark)

A Brother's Promise...

It was November of 1991 and I was living in Orlando, Florida. I had just turned 15 the previous month, and things weren’t going so well for me. I was getting horrible migraines on an almost daily basis. Migraines that would cause me to black-out at times. I was constantly in doctors offices. I was in and out of hospitals. There were 911 calls and ambulance rides. There were CAT-Scans and EEGs. No one could figure anything out. Prescriptions were tried… and none seemed to help. I was in pain… and no one knew why.

That is where my brother Peter comes in to the story.

One day I was sitting on my bed, looking out the window. From my window I could see the front yard and driveway. Suddenly a car pulled into the driveway. It was a car I had never seen before. I don’t remember if it was a Buick or an Oldsmobile - but it was one of the two. I couldn’t see the driver until he was out of the car and was standing in the driveway looking at me looking out of my window. It was my brother Peter, paying a completely unexpected visit from Connecticut.

I ran out of my room to greet him. The whole house was filled with excitement at this completely surprise visit. My mom was so excited to see him. Everyone was. After a few moments of hugs and hellos he took me into my room and shut the door. He asked me how I was doing… and whether I was OK. He asked about my headaches. He asked about school. He asked about whether or not I was being picked on or bullied. He asked if I was doing any drugs or drinking any alcohol. He told me that he had come to Florida for one reason and one reason alone: To check on me.

I began to cry.

That evening I had the most horrible migraine while sitting in the living room. My brother Peter carried me to my bedroom and helped me get settled in. 

The next morning he woke me up and told me that I was skipping school. I asked why… and he told me that he had something special planned for the day. I put on my jeans and a white Jim Morrison/The Doors T-shirt… and grabbed this horrible 80s maroon leather jacket I had - and headed out the door with my brother. I think he told my mom that we were “going out for the day”.

We ended up at Universal Studios. The place was practically empty - because it was November and it was a weekday. We basically had the place to ourselves. We went on just about every ride that there was at the time. We took the tours. We took lots and lots of photos. But that was all secondary to me. The main thing was that I was spending time with my brother. He was there for me. 

We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. At the time, Orlando’s Hard Rock Cafe was the largest one in the world. It had a HUGE collection of rock and roll memorabilia. We ordered burgers… and Peter ordered the famous Hard Rock Hurricane. He got carded, which we laughed about - because he had recently turned 26. I think he was actually a bit embarrassed that he got carded.

We talked and we talked and we talked. We talked about everything from girls to school to Jim Morrison to drugs to being an artist. (Peter was an amazing artist… and I was trying my best to follow in his footsteps, taking every art class I could in high school).

We left Universal Studios rather late that night. I remember we were driving on the East-West Expressway, heading home… and there was no one else on the road. There was just the glow of the headlights hitting the road reflectors… and the glow of the dashboard lights. Peter turned to me and asked “Have you ever gone 110mph before?” I said “No.” He replied “Well, you are now!”. I looked over at the speedometer in amazement! We really were going 110mph in this big-ass four-door GM monster of a rental car.

During the rest of Peter’s visit we spent a great deal of time talking. We drew together. We went shopping together, and he helped me to change my wardrobe. We listened to just about every album by The Doors multiple times… and sang along to all of the songs. He gave me a copy of “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman (a book which I quickly devoured).

The days flew by and eventually Peter had to head back home to Connecticut. I remember crying as I hugged him goodbye. I wanted to go back to Connecticut with him so badly, it hurt.

From that point on, I just knew that my brother Peter would always be there for me. He had my back. When I got completely piss-drunk for the first time — he was the one I called. When I had my first bad acid trip - he was the one I called. He talked me through it even though it was somewhere around 1:00 in the morning. He told me to grab a drawing pad and start drawing what I was feeling. He helped it end, when I thought it never would.

Over the years Peter continued to “have my back”. He was always there… even when months passed between actual in-person visits with each other. He was always waiting on the other end of the line. It was his promise to me, when at Christmas he sent me a copy of “The Doors: The Illustrated History” with the following inscription on the title page:

“To Vincent James

Big Vin - I am so proud of you, your talent and smarts and good taste in music. I’ll always be there for you, just give me the chance.

Merry Christmas

Love Peter

P.S. - Keep Jim Alive”

He promised me that he’d always be there for me… and he always was. And now that he has passed I make that same promise to his family…

I’ll always be there for you.

(Peter taking his turn getting eaten by the shark)

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Not saying "goodbye"...

Thursday - April 02, 2015

This morning I knelt at my big brother's side... holding his hand tightly so I could feel his pulse... his heartbeat... pounding through my fingers and my palm. I felt the warmth of his body. I listened to the slowing beeps of the heart-monitor echoing in the room. I held on tightly to his pulse as it slowly became softer and less frequent... until finally I could feel it no more. I still held on... until I was the only one left in the room with him... holding tighter and tighter, feeling the warmth drift away from his skin... slowly replaced by a cool touch that let me know with no uncertainty that my hero was gone. I cried tears more painful than any I have ever shed in my almost four decades of life. My tears fell, splashing onto his skin until the back of his hand was completely drenched. It was my way of anointing him. It was the only thing I could offer him.

Before all of this... just moments before the machine-forced breaths were ended and the tubes were removed, I had a moment alone to whisper in his ear. I will never share with anyone all of what it was I said to my big brother. That is for me. That is mine to keep... and I'm sorry but you cannot have that. I will say that it included so many "I love you"s that I lost count. I will say that I never once said "Goodbye". I refused to. "Goodbye" at such moments is forever... and I fully intend to see my brother again. It may be many decades from now... but somehow I just "know" that it WILL happen. It's the only thing I have faith in anymore.

This afternoon my sister-in-law Angel​, my brother Kenneth​ and I gathered to make the funeral arrangements to fulfill Peter's wishes as best as we possibly could... with heavy influence and input from Peter's eldest daughters, Frannie and Jessica. I think we got it as close to "right" as we could. The Wake will be on Monday, April 6th from 4PM to 8PM at Hoyt Cognetta Funeral Home - 5 East Wall Street - Norwalk, CT 06851. The Funeral Mass will take place on Tuesday, April 7th at 10:00AM at St. Matthew's Church - 216 Scribner Avenue - Norwalk, CT 06854. All are welcome to attend these celebrations of the life of a truly wonderful man.

A lot of you have sent messages, posted comments, sent texts, left voicemails, etc.. My phone has been buzzing non-stop for the past few days. I apologize that I cannot respond to each and every one of you right now. Yes, right now I am OK. We are all doing the best that one could expect right now. The coming days will be very tough. I will be spending a good portion of the next couple of days writing the Eulogy for the Funeral Mass. I might be offline at times... I might be difficult to get in touch with. Please do not take that personally or think that I am ignoring you. Please know that my entire family and I are extremely touched and appreciative of all of your comments... your prayers... your thoughts... your messages... your support. It truly does mean the world to us... and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

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