My brother, Joe, is 6 years younger than me. When he was a brand new infant, fresh from the hospital, I wanted to take the umbilical cord remnant off his belly button because it marred my, otherwise perfect, baby brother. He was the only one among us that I was old enough to care for when he was an infant. I could give him his bottle and help bathe him as long as I was very careful.
In one of the photos above, he is standing next to me; he is 4. In the “posed” photo he is being very patient while I put him through the paces with my new instamatic camera. He wore a plastered on bubble gum tattoo, looking up when I asked him to, trying not to grin, because I wanted a serious “shot”. I wish I had a picture of him all dressed up in a flannel nightie, wearing lipstick. The two little boys were like live dolls for me and my sisters. They were good sports and tolerated all manner of undignified antics.
He was Mum’s favorite because he was the baby. He’s a more handsome version of our father. I think she hoped he’d be a better man too. Joe called me one morning, just before his life tanked, and asked if he could come over for coffee. He sat at the table and talked about the turn his life had taken. He put his head down in his arms and cried his heart out. I didn’t say a word. I rubbed my little brother’s broad shoulders while I worried about how I could help him.
We did all that we could. We’re advocates of tough love. We had him arrested for bail violations, banished him from our homes, drew lines in the sand. One of the worst things I’ve ever heard was the fear in his voice as he was being brought from jail to the court room for arraignment. It’s not the worst thing but almost. He’s in one of the biggest and best hospitals in the country today, waiting to hear there is nothing to be done for him. He doesn’t know that but I do.