Two days ago someone I knew died. He was my brother’s housemate, but was not a friend of mine. I didn’t much like him — I found it obsequious, the way he would talk to me as though we were old pals when I probably spoke three sentences to him his entire life and found it difficult to occupy the same room as him most of the time. I feel bad for his family, especially his parents. The worst thing, I imagine, that can happen to a mother and a father has happened to them. Our parents aren’t meant to bury us. We are meant to bury them. But I feel nothing more for his family than I have felt for victims of hurricanes and earthquakes. My heart goes out to them, but only so far. They are strangers. I don’t grieve with them.
I feel worse for my brother than I do for the family of the dead. He is my brother, and I love him, and he’s lost a friend. When I learned of this Thursday night, there was a horrible period of about thirty minutes when I feared for my brother. The death resulted from a motorcycle accident, but I didn’t find that out until a few hours later. All I knew at first was “accident” and “death,” and that my girlfriend had gotten off the phone after hearing the news and said to me that I’d better call my mother.
Mom hadn’t heard. All I told her was that there had been an accident. Why worry her needlessly, I figured. I asked if she’d heard from my brother. She hadn’t. He was supposed to be out of town. He shouldn’t have been with his housemate that night. There was nothing to worry about, she told me, not knowing what “accident” really meant. I told her to call my brother and get back to me, and sat on the couch waiting for my phone to ring, “he shouldn’t have been there” running back and forth through my head.
I talked to my brother eventually. He was fine, on his way to see the family of the dead. I called Mom to put her mind at ease, still not telling her that the guy her younger son’s roommate was dead. She found out eventually and called me back a final time that night. I wanted to make sure everything was all right from our end before I let her in on the whole story, I told her.
And everything was all right, from our end.