"there aren’t many american cities more down on their luck than buffalo…buffalo is new york state’s second-largest city, but it’s closer to cleveland and detroit, both geographically and spiritually, than to manhattan or brooklyn."
in my brother’s bathroom, wearing the $39.98 xoxo dress i bought in the junior department at macy’s, since a dress, like a name or a place, must bear all of its connotations, and i didn’t own anything strong or dispassionate enough for the occasion. i tried to find a less hideous belt, but had to take comfort in the fit.
my brother and i had a lot of babysitters growing up—my mom was the only woman who worked among the doctors’ and lawyers’ wives who lived nearby—and i’ve heard from almost all of them. not two-sentence notes, either. i am talking about long, specific messages from people who watched us telling me that they always felt we were part of their families. i never liked western new york—it is so poor, so run-down, so depressing, nobody seemed to care about alice walker—but all of the stereotypes about the nicest people on earth living there are pretty true. getting anything done takes forever because everyone is offering everyone else to go ahead and cut them in line.
at first i was worried about posting this, because i wasn’t sure if my parents knew my brother felt this way, or i thought that they would take these messages too literally. but my mom said many times this past weekend that keith was lonely, and worried about other people who were lonely, too, like the older woman across the street who lived by herself, and who my brother would regularly wave to from his room. he made new friends every time he went to the grocery store. my therapist recently said to me “you’re not that social,” which is odd, only in that sociability runs in my family. this text is from a week ago tonight, the last time i spoke with my brother.
marc, his mom, and i were watching this sunset when i felt my phone vibrate in my purse. i saw my dad was calling, and was kind of pissed, because my father—like everyone else—knows i don’t talk on the phone. then i looked at my voicemail and saw that both of my parents had left messages, turned to marc, and said “he’s dead.”
i called my mom and she said “he’s gone” and “i tried so hard to save him, kara” and started crying. we drove back to the timeshare and i got into our bed in my silver alexander wang dress while marc made all of the arrangements to get us to buffalo, immediately. he also googled “how to help a grieving spouse,” which he was very embarrassed to tell me at dinner tonight, and remains so mortified about that he asked me not to tell anyone, but i told him i was writing this post, because it’s one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. he also did several things that were not mentioned on the internet, including surreptitiously handing me a tissue, which wasn’t that easy since i was directly in front of the casket, one of only four people sitting down.
my brother was buried in a beautiful cemetery. it was the first jewish funeral i’ve ever been to and the only thing i missed was the open casket: i wanted to see him one more time. there were many more people than expected, including family i haven’t seen in at least twenty years. it might be the only time marc ever meets them, so i was thankful for that. and my best friend from grade school—always my platonic ideal of a best friend, so popular that everyone wanted to hang out with her, though she wouldn’t go unless i was invited—showed up unexpectedly. the last time i spent time with her was when my high school boyfriend died, and we weren’t even that close any more—we went to different high schools—but she stayed over that first night after the accident and let me monologue at her until i wore myself out.