I watch his hands move with loving precision over the Cessna’s instrument panel. It is hard to trust someone even when you have no choice. I know that an eight-inch piece of aluminum and a diesel engine are all that keeps my brother and I suspended over the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. It is a flawless summer day. We are thousands of feet above the static of life, nevertheless, I know he’s nuts. I know I will never truly know him or trust him, but I love this moment.
Richard Dee was born in NYC in the middle of a frigid winter evening directly in the center of a traumatized, brilliant, baffling, boisterous, manic and maniacal century, poised as it was, so it believed, at the mouth of apocalypse now. Every generation’s self-absorption is densely ego-centric, which makes it easy for every generation to be sincerely convinced they are the ultimate fruit of humanity’s labor.
Winter has a deeper heart than summer. Winter loves with a passion beyond measure, but winter also envies and detests the newborn, especially the firstborn. So, with an oblique malaise, an undefined sense of melancholy, Richard grew into a man, but he never thawed. He never knew spring. He was too busy careening through his days, blinding strangers with his mind; a 20th-century poster child for prosperity who spent more time exhaling than inhaling so the poor guy never had enough oxygen in his system. My own brother, stranger more to me now than he ever was has only his fears and my hand left to him in this life, and we are both scared to death. I tremble at the finality of transformation, but I remember the joy of rebirth.
Today is not a good day for me, God or Richard. For Richard, it is worse than ever. All the omens portend doom. When the Raven remains sheltered from the storm against her will, the wind will bite with a more brutal cunning. Today is not friendly to life living on earth’s flesh. Today doesn’t have enough ozone in its skin to shield my brother from the pain of being nailed. Chill is dressed up like a penguin at an execution. The med-van pulls up to Richard’s house. The wheelchair hoist delivers his body, blotched by melanomas and microscopic RNA jack-hammers. He is chiseled down to just a shell of his former self, and I am his lifeline. My heart cannot break any more than it has. It is already dark matter, but Richard’s heart is frenetic with music and voices that only the dying are privy to when they are as close as they are to the pulse of holy. His hair is thinning badly. He looks like what he is, a man dying of AIDS. It’s so hard on him. It’s hard.
I am reminded of my grandmother who died at 95 but insisted she was only 94. Vanity is death’s worst bedfellow. Richard would have laughed at this comment. But he’s not here, he’s flying his bird on skies that only immortals have the privilege to fly.