John was my brother. He would have been sixty today, but ten years ago he came home saying he didn’t feel too well. He took a walk around the block, then came and sat down in his recliner. His wife came in a few minutes later and found him dead.
I don’t have a picture, and I’m sorry for that, though not for myself. He and I, not quite three years apart, were always close, and in my mind I have pictures of him at every stage of life, from a babe in Mother’s arms in the early Fifties to an alert and cheerful man in leather vest and cowboy hat a few months before he died.
John didn’t speak until he was two. It wasn’t because he was stupid, it was because I have been verbose and more than a bit overbearing my whole life; he had a system of vocalizations and hand-signs that I could interpret, and when he wanted to say something he told me using that system and I translated. One summer we were on the back porch eating dinner with multiple guests, and John looked up and said clearly to one of my cousins, “Please pass the peas.” Mike had already done so, and John was spooning some out for himself, before any of the rest of us realized what had happened.
East Texas humidity and pine pollen were too much for John, and soon after he married he moved to Farmington, NM, in the Four Corners. There he raised a family while scrabbling for various jobs, unwilling to go elsewhere to look for work because the climate suited him so. What he really liked, though, was the mountains of southern Colorado — Durango and Telluride, Ouray and Pagosa Springs, and especially Silverton. After he was divorced and remarried, he and his new wife moved to Silverton and made their home there. He died in Farmington, between jobs in the off-season, but he’s buried in Silverton, in the cemetery on a shoulder of the mountain looking over the town. His headstone is a native Colorado rock, engraved by one of his local friends.
The funeral was the last major trip Mother made before she got too sick to travel. I’ve been back to his grave once, but probably won’t be able to again; I can’t leave Bobbe, and I don’t have either the funds, the car, or the energy to make the trip. That, too, though, is clear in my mind. It’s a peaceful place, high in the clear mountain air, far enough from the bustle to hear the swish of air through the feathers of the eagle soaring by. He would’ve rather had a house there than a grave, but we don’t always get to choose.
I miss him. When we travel we pick up bits and pieces of the places we visit, but we leave bits of ourselves behind as well. Blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, lies on a mountainside in Colorado, and always will, and the peace and quiet and the incredible light lies in my heart.