How does one sum up a life in a few short paragraphs? How do you bring back to life the love, anger, sadness, laughter, and a thousand other emotions that define the bond of brotherhood? My brother Travis has died, and I find myself incapable of doing his memory justice; the task is impossible.
As I pour over memories in my head, none seems worthy of sharing. Of course, this is not because I don’t want to share, but rather because those memories mean something only to me. How do I describe driving around with my brother, bored out of our minds, chatting about nothing in particular, while burning through a pack of Camel Lights and have that nostalgic reflection truly mean anything important to anyone but myself? I cannot, the memory means something only because of the company that evening.
And what memories do I pick? Should I only choose those that induce sad nostalgia, like the one above? Those seem the most appropriate for a day like today, but perhaps what we need more than sad tears are reluctant smiles. One time, Travis took the head off a giant stuffed rabbit and made a mask out of it. He burst through the front door at full speed, scaring my mother and I to death. That was 12 years ago; I still laugh when I tell the story.
Of course, I must embarrass him and discuss Travis’ sensitive side. Despite his hard exterior, Travis was a deeply sensitive person and easily hurt. When he was about 14, he accidentally knocked out our brother Derrick’s front tooth with a baseball. He was so upset about hurting his brother that it nearly made him physically ill. He always had a mind for the feelings of others. Such stories, however true, feel like empty platitudes today.
Should I only focus on the good? Everyone knows the adage that you don’t speak ill of the dead, but isn’t pain and anger part of a relationship as well? Why do we not share those memories, if only to reflect on their stupidity and meaninglessness? Years ago, Travis and I nearly got into a fistfight because he wouldn’t clean up the dirty laundry he left strewn about our shared bedroom. It got so bad my father had to intervene. Travis had a temper that sometimes clashed with my own. He and I often argued and bickered and fought; what I wouldn’t give to argue and bicker and fight with him today.
In truth, I’m hurt. I’m sad that I will never see my brother smile again. I’m angry that he got on that motorcycle. I regret that so much between us is left unfinished. I’m happy to have shared my cigarettes with him (sorry Mom). I’m proud to call him my brother.
Travis James Essel was 26 years old. He is survived by far too many people that love him.