oh, brother

When we were young, John and I went to the old folks’ home—the nursing home, the skilled nursing facility, whatever you want to call it—and there was an old woman clawing the air and yelling, I’m hungry, I’m tired, there used to be a doorway here, and we went to visit Gaffo, my grandfather, my dad’s father, John’s step-grandfather, if that’s actually a thing, I mean, it is, and I know this, because John’s grandfather, who we always called Grampa Jones even though his last name wasn’t really “Jones,” we just liked to call him that, and sometimes John would say a lame-ass rhyme, Grampa Jones, you sure got nice bones, and Grampa would chuckle like older folks do at youngsters while we were basically ROTFLOAO before that was a thing, texting acronyms, or even texting, for that matter; anyway, Grampa Jones was my step-grandfather back when John’s mom and my dad were married, and even after they divorced when we were in our twenties, even then, John was still my brother and Grampa was still my Grampa, I mean, whatever on the “step” part, it’s stupid and awkward and even now, three decades later, long after Gaffo died, long after Grampa died, John is still my brother and I know this because beyond family summer vacations at the lake house with John, his wife and my two nieces, who are, technically, my step-nieces, but at this point, who cares, and are now the age we were when our parents divorced; beyond the occasional snarky texts we send each other, like, often, or the Thanksgiving FaceTime calls (is that redundant? FaceTime calls? like when people say “your PIN number” and I cringe but don’t correct them, I’ll leave that to Dad, but wait…Dad’s gone, I keep forgetting this); beyond all that, John was there for me, my brother, he was there for me, he flew all day from Memphis to Maine to the nursing home where we spent the last week of Dad’s life at Dad’s side and this time no one was yelling about doorways, just the hiss of Dad’s oxygen tank surrounding our sorrow, and again, in case the extended blended family tree is just too much to deal with—like when I get the eyerolls or frowns or puzzled looks from friends who didn’t know me then, or are from families that never divorced, or whose listening skills are not one hundred, or all of the above—here is the Cliff’s Notes version of my life: my dad married John’s mom when we were young and he will always be our dad even though he’s gone and for that I love my brother.