Matthew has very little to offer. He is a starving artist who lives in a van. He is often late to everything and when he gets there he smells of weed covered with patchouli. Although we grew up together, we are complete opposites and the five years between us further the divide.
I am often early. I never drink or smoke and I definitely don’t live in my car. I live in a three bedroom condo in New York by the Hudson River. My home is immaculate, my wife is beautiful, I drive a Mercedes - Benz, and my job is high paying.
I take after my mom. She was an amazing woman. She traveled the world making deals and raking in the money so my father, my brother, and I could live well. When she was home we would go to the spa or fancy meals or take my brother to the amusement parks.
My brother takes after my father. Always late, always dreaming, always taking the long way home even though they knew I had dinner waiting. Those two lived on a whole other planet.
I will never understand how my parents got together. How does a hard working, driven woman even notice such a lazy, unfocused man? My mother said it was at college but what courses could they have possibly met in? My mother studied economics and business and my father was all art and communications.
I was worried about my father now. My brother, too. Mother was no longer the bolt that could hold those nuts together. Her departure was swift. She had barely gotten the diagnosis and she was already gone.
Of course, she had arranged everything for her funeral ahead of time. My father couldn’t manage it. He was lost without her before she was even gone. When I picked the two of them up for the funeral neither was ready. It was like they had forgotten how to function.
I got there early, of course, so I was able to help them. I picked out their clothes and tied their ties and found their shoes. I put my fear and sorrow aside. I had to focus on moving us forward.
After the funeral, I stayed. My wife flew home but I feared they weren't ready to be alone. It took about a week to get them back on track. My sorrow was replaced by exasperation, my fear by frustration.
It was late the night before I was scheduled to fly out when brother came to me offering a ride to the airport. Every ounce of me wanted to say no but this gesture was all my brother had to offer and I knew that. Even though I did not want to miss my flight I couldn't take that away from him.
I woke him early the next morning with a tap on his van door and some very dark coffee. The windshield was cracked and I worried I would break it. He had lived in this van for years on our parents’ property. Both of them so proud of this derelict as he floundered about ‘creating’.
I prodded him forward into his routine. I checked my watch one hundred times. When it was time to leave I hugged my father. I made promises to return that I wasn't sure I would or could keep. My heart ached for his loss. My mind worried about his ability to care for himself and my reckless brother.
Surprisingly we got on the road on time. It was about an hours drive for my brother. I would have done it in 40. The radio played. We were quiet. I was thinking about everything I had to do when I got home. I was thinking about all the meetings and appointments and chores that awaited me.
My brother, without a word, pulled over to the side of the highway and turned off the radio. Smoked billowed from under the hood. I jumped out of the van grabbing at my things. My brother sat in his seat immobile. I yelled at him to get the hell out but he didnt move. I threw my stuff to the ground and grabbed at him.
“Move, Matthew, MOVE!” I could see tears streaming down his face. I unclicked his belt and ran to the other side of the van. “Matthew, you have to help me! Help me, Matthew, please!” His eyes met mine and he fell onto me. We moved slowly to the back of the van and onto the shoulder.
He fell to the ground openly sobbing. “I couldn’t fix it, I couldn’t save her! I can’t even get you to the airport! I’m so sorry.” My heart broke then. Emotions I was not able to manage before came pouring out. I choked and gasped for air. It felt like every part of my body would crumble into pieces.
His sobbing was silenced as mine hit a crescendo. My lungs heaving with every breath, he held me while I exorcized the pain from my body. He held me until I stopped shaking, until I could breathe again. He held me until I felt my pieces coming back together.
We sat on the shoulder of the highway, leaning into each other. We remembered our childhood and laughed about our father’s antics. Time passed and my plane surely flew away as we remembered my mother. My brother told wild stories I had forgotten about. We laughed about our father’s antics and cried some more about our loss.
I looked at my brother and I understood the love my mother had for my father. The adoration for someone so wildly different. The comfort in someone who can offer so much more than you are able to give yourself and who does this with no expectation.
I knew then that we would be okay. I realized that my brother had offered me so much more than a ride to the airport: he offered me the opportunity to break and become whole again.