Friday, December 8, 2006
As of this morning, my brother Tommy has been living in Heaven as long as he had lived on Earth. Taken by a stealthy heart disease that would later put my mother through two surgeries.
I’ve written, throughout my life, about his death. Today, to honor him, I’d like to write a little about his life.
Born to a mother a whole 15 years old and a con-artist father in the Navy, there was not much expectation for Tommy’s future. Nowadays, children from those kinds of families typically turn out like the children who raised them.
However, our parents made a fateful move from California to Wisconsin, back to my paternal grandparents’ house. There, Tommy had our Bumpa. A strong, sensible and extremely intelligent retired Navy Commander, Bumps tapped into Tommy’s brain and found someone a lot like himself.
Tommy was loving. He always took care of my brother and me, no matter what. Whether he was watching us while Mom was working, taking us ice skating or flying alone with us across the country – he was always responsible and caring, despite being only two years older.
Tommy was a genius. I’ve never seen a test score to prove that so, but I don’t need to. His brain was a sponge for information. Before he even started school, my grandpa would hold up United States puzzle pieces BACKWARD and Tommy would name the state and capitol. In elementary school, he wrote stories at levels far beyond the rest of the kids. He had to have been in fifth grade when we got our first computer and within days he was a master. He experimented with Prodigy – a primitive form of what is now the Internet. He figured out the password to Rodney Jokes – a program that generated dirty Rodney Dangerfield jokes one at a time. He used Dr. Halo to create elaborate drawings of his absolute favorite thing: fighter jets.
Tommy was also extremely curious, and sometimes naughty. When he was five years old, he used to play “Fireman,” where he would put paper in the toaster to light it on fire, then stomp it out with his rain boots or extinguish it in the sink. As he got older, he became “Mr. Fixit” and would disassemble our toys – though they were rarely reassembled, Tommy learned how they worked. He built elaborate airplane models with extensive detail.
He invented insane ways to torture his siblings and just silly little things to make people laugh. He “chubbed” ears, “chunged” arms and sometimes even “dunka-chunged” them. He would hold our brother Tony down and whip him with his ‘skater hair.’ Or, hold him down and shove Warheads in his mouth. Or hold him down (did I mention he was much bigger than us?) and act like he was going to spit on him. He would stand outside my bedroom door at night, point his finger at me and close one eye to ‘aim.’ I had to scream or he’d charge my bed like a torpedo. (Then of course, I’d get in trouble for yelling when he “wasn’t doing anything", but it was better than getting “torpedoed.”)
He was a crazy kid. A smart kid. A loving kid.
That cold December morning, we lost someone great. Someone who should have grown up to be the next Bill Gates or war hero – who’s full potential will never be known. Yet when he died at thirteen, had more knowledge than I will probably have my whole life.
I miss you so much, Tommy, and I sure hope you can fly up there.