Well, we're home. It's been a rough couple of weeks. I'm a mess and my parents are just destroyed. Now that all the craziness in dealing with Mike's memorial service, legal red tape, packing, comforting his friends and each other...now that all that is on pause for now, we've had time to sit down and face the fact that Mike, my brother, Suzanne's brother-in-law...is gone. I still can't believe it. I've had to put on my game face when posting on Mike's site. But here, on my tiny corner of the Web, it's hard. I have to deal with the idea that the guy I grew up with and used to talk with for hours about comics and football and movies and politics is not there anymore. I have friends who enjoy a lot of the same things I do but not one of them enjoy them all in the way that Mike did. (Leaf, you come the closest, brotha.)
We thought coming home, getting into the routine again, would help. It hasn't. My den, my home theater, my sanctum sanctorum, where I usually watch movies, was where I was when I got the news via a phone call from the Durham police department. It will never look the same to me again. Despite the additional presence of Charlie, who came home with us, the house seems emptier somehow. Something's missing.
To make things worse...and this is a minor problem, all things considered...a major storm blew through while we were in Durham. When we came home, our yard was destroyed. Limbs and branches were everywhere. The power had gone out and our clocks were all blinking. We had to call the alarm company to reset the alarm, which was beeping. Our back fence was obliterated by the top half of a tree that fell onto it. Fortunately, our gazebo was spared. I've spent the previous four weekends before Mike's death, putting a new roof on it and I'm not quite done. If it had been damaged, I don't know what my reaction would have been. Again, minor compared to the previous two weeks, but it's a lot to deal with on top of everything else. And I'm starting to feel a little picked on these days.
My mind tends to wander now. I can't concentrate. The tiniest things set me off on crying jags. I made the mistake of watching a YouTube video of Mike in a panel with other comics pros and had to turn it off. Hearing that laugh...I'm just not ready yet. I see things in the house that he gave me...especially the original CASPER artwork and the Nova pin-up he drew me for my birthday...and I lose it. This morning, I pulled into the driveway after going to the DMV and saw Mike's car sitting there. (We had to bring it home with us for security reasons.) The last time it was there was last Thanksgiving...
Last night was tough because Mike's friend Mark Waid gave us the advice of having a friend bring Charlie to our house so Toonces wouldn't feel we betrayed him. Good advice, as it turns out. We left Charlie with our buddy Christian Leaf and he was nice enough to bring him in today. But as we were leaving Leaf's house last night, Suzanne just cried and cried, uncontrollably. Charlie had held us together for two weeks. He's all we have left of Mike and he'd been so sweet and affectionate to us and my parents. We were able to focus on Charlie and not our grief. I should have known it would do this to her. When we took him away from the house in Durham, leaving my parents down there for another day, alone, my Mom had the same reaction.
It's almost Fall now and I keep seeing ads for shows and movies and books that I know Mike was looking forward to. LOST. HEROES. Football. Jeez, he loved football. He was so looking forward to the next Batman film. Worst of all, the TELLOS COLOSSAL hardcover came out this week. It had been delayed for weeks. My only consolation was that he got to see it before he died. His comp copy was on his desk when we got to his house at 4:30 that horrible Monday morning. He was so excited about that it breaks my heart.
Probably the most heartbreaking aspect of this whole tragedy has been the impact on my parents. They've been preparing for their own demise for ten or fifteen years. We used to tease them about their preparedness. They had a kind of Zen serenity about it because they've lived full, happy lives and have come to terms with it. And they knew they'd never have to bury their sons. That serenity is gone now and my Mom and Dad are no longer the happy, content people they were. They'll never be the same because now they're worried about me too. They're clinging to me and Suzanne and are terrified of letting us out of their sight, afraid they'll never see us again. That's the part that's killing me.
Selfishly, it occurs to me that I'll have to go through losing them eventually on my own. Knowing Mike would be there for me had helped me accept that eventuality. Now I'm back to being that scared teenager I was when it first sunk in that parents don't live forever. When they're gone, I'll be alone. The last of my family. The other day I realized that, assuming I live an average life-span, I'll spend as much time in this world without my brother as I did with hiim. And that, my friends, is not fair. In fact, that's some cruel motherfucking shit.
I don't know how I'd have gotten through this without Suzanne. She's been a rock. She did 90 percent of the paperwork and phone calls in Durham while my parents and I cried and stared off into space. She fed us and drove us to lawyers and the funeral home and she and her wonderful, beautiful sister Jennifer had pictures made for the service. Jennifer also brought us lasagna and ran errands and kept my Mom company. Mr. and Mrs. Lemons raised some mighty fine girls and I thank my lucky stars every day for marrying into that family.
Hopefully, in time, my posts will be more fun. I'll be mentioning Mike from time to time. How can I not? I idolized him and I will miss him for the rest of my life. But the sad fact is that work starts for me again on Monday and I still have his affairs to wrap up. Then, hopefully, I have another 40 years to live. How I'm going to do that without the coolest big brother of all time remains to be seen. But I'm going to try.
I have to.