Sunday, June 1, 2008


Today I turned 47 and I still twirl my hair. It's a love for soft, uninterrupted textures and smooth surfaces, that's why I do it. I love all things smooth--glass beads, plates, cups, freshly waxed cars, the flat bed of my thumbnail brushed against my bottom lip, the velvet-like smooth of a horse's nose. And polished stones, lots and lots of stones.

My brother's first car was a Camero, red on the bottom with a red top and a spoiler that turned up above the trunk, like a slightly turned up nose. He pampered that car, washing and waxing it often. The finish remained so smooth that my fingers weightlessly glided over the finish; no dust to interfere with my hand's flow. This was the day of eight-track tape players and the Camero had only room to store about three tapes in a center storage space. It held Led Zepplin, Aerosmith, and Simon and Garfunkel. I was too young to be into that music--I was just along for the ride.

We were eight years apart, yet we had the same complexions and were built exactly alike. He was always on the heavy side and had a quick temper, just like me. When he worked hard, his face became flushed from exertion, just like mine. He loved to hunt and fish and was enamored with shooting arrows up into the sky over the shed. I found the arrows intriguing because of the odd, soft feathers on the ends that guided their paths. Gary shot the arrows up into the sky and watched for their return while I ran to the shed for shelter.

When we went trout fishing at Glen Lake, he favored a spot on a tributary where he would situate himself pulling on hip waders and walk into the shallow cool water with his fly in hand. I sat on the bank and fumbled with a rod and reel and worms. Large trees hung over the water and sheltered us, their leaves casting a green hue that shed surreal images. With the gentle sounds of birds and wind rushing through the trees, with the cool temperature and the movement of the water, it was true perfection.

We didn't fight often, but when we did it was usually because he was too rough. He loved to drag me around and throw me over his shoulder, to wrestle, but he didn't know his own strength. Usually flares erupted when I felt pain, which was nearly every time we wrestled.

He loved to hunt, which for me meant playing with small cardboard cylinders filled with BBs for his first BB gun. He shot crows and squirrels, partridges and pheasants. As he got older he moved up to a repeat 22 that was black with white enamel highlights. It was a beautiful gun. I loved to touch the smooth, white enamel.

He smoked a pipe and owned a small collection that he'd received as gifts. I loved the smooth, shiny bowls of the pipe and the smell of his tobacoo. His car and clothes smelled of his favorite cherry tobacco and I found the silver pouches in various places throughout the house.

My brother's tombstone is gray, polished granite with an etching of a trout jumping over a stream. The smooth granite is like the finish of his first car, so smooth that your hand just glides over without interruption, unlike the last year-and-a-half of his life.

As I left the church and headed to where his casket waited to be loaded into the hearse, I reached out to touch the long, polished black box to say good-bye one last time. The pallbearers moved the casket out the door out from under my hand before I could touch it, and into the black, shiny hearse. My good-bye was interrupted.

Only two days after the funeral, I found a purple amethyst polished stone on the ground outside of Dunn Brothers Coffee on Grand and Snelling. I wondered if a child had tumbled it in a rock tumbler received as a Christmas gift, or if he or she had simply lost it from one of the those bags of polished stones that several of the stores on Grand sell. I held it up to the light and saw the intracicies that lay within. It was filled with all the shades of purple that my mind could imagine with sprays of white that randomly hung like stationary clouds. It's linked to my brother, this stone. It seemed appropriate that I would find this smooth, beautiful stone only two days after his funeral.

As I think about him, I catch myself twirling my hair again and promise to stop before I turn 48.

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