Fifteen Years

Posted: 9 January 2013 in family, life, don't talk to me about life, personal
Tags: ,

Fifteen years. A decade and a half. Or to be more precise, about fifteen years and seven or so hours since my brother died.

Despite rewriting it every year, I stick up something about Mike annually on this day with not a smidgen of guilt or concern.

Michael deserves a public remembrance from me every year.

9th January 1998. I was in work early and, having dropped my bag at the office, was having a coffee across the road. About five-past eight, someone else who’d been in early came to get me; a call from Laura. Then a call to the hospital, the growing suspicion from the understandable reticence of the doctor to tell me anything over the phone… and then the knowledge – the horrible, horrible knowledge – that my brother had died.

Not a good morning.

Mike was 38 years old, ten years younger than I am now… And that’s a thing you never get used to – that you’re older than someone who was older than you. It’s a genuinely strange feeling, realising that, knowing that you’re seeing birthdays that he never reached, experiencing birthdays, anniversaries, life, that he never got to have.

And that’s leaving to one side the fact that he lost those years – he lost seeing his children grow up, he lost the chance to see Phil grow up, and that Phil never got the chance to know Mike. Not properly, not as a growing child should get to know someone.

I’ve friends that I’ve made over the past few years who I absolutely know Michael would have liked to have met, and they’d have liked to have known him. I can also smile, reluctantly at times, at the life experiences and choices I’ve made that would have at various times, cheered him, made him laugh, made him angry, and left him speechless in exasperation. He was my brother and I loved him – what else would you expect?

Where the hell has fifteen years gone? Fifteen bloody years! Well, I know the answer to that: I look at my son, and know the final family photo taken of Mike was with Philip, when the latter was a little over two years old. And Phil’s now seventeen, and he prefers to hug his girlfriend than any family member. Still, where have the years gone?

Fifteen Years.

It’s utter nonsense to say that ‘time heals every wound’. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even come close. What it does do, I’ve rediscovered with every passing year, is lessen the temptation to pick at the scab.

So with every year that passes, it hurts a little less… most of the time.

Every so often, of course, it bites; it hurts terribly, and I miss him so fucking much; the wry humour, the love of comedy we shared, the cool way he’d examine a problem from every side, then laugh and say “fuck it, go for it…”

Michael Russell Barnett wasn’t perfect, far from it. He loved puns, just didn’t ‘get’ comics at all, had problems carrying a tune in a bucket, and his enthusiasm for the guitar wasn’t in any way matched by ability.

Still, as a brother, Mike was as good as they get and if I’d have gone to Brothers ‘R’ Us, I couldn’t have picked better. He taught me so much, including the most important things in life, like the proper glass out of which to drink scotch: “one with a hole at one end, and no hole at the other.” I was best man at his wedding to Lynne, and that he trusted me (at the age of 21) with that responsibility honoured me then, and it still does. I’ve still many wonderful memories of Michael, but those few hours on the morning of his wedding when it was just me and him… ah, they’re memories I wouldn’t trade for anything.

He died fifteen years ago today and I miss him dreadfully, especially today. I miss him always, but today, it’s a bugger.

Rest easy, brother.

A few years ago, after I posted something similar to the above, I got several emails and messages from people who either didn’t know I’d had a brother, or didn’t know what had happened. Both asked what had happened. Here’s what I put up in response.

Soon after Mike’s death, I was asked to write something about him – this is what I wrote.

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Comments
  1. shelleysilas says:

    Thank you for this. It’s coming up to two years since my sister died, everything you say I share. Thank you for saying so eloquently. Remembering our siblings is really important.

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