Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My brother's birthday

Today, my brother Ricky would have been 46 years old. But he never made it past his 24th birthday. The truth is, I can't tell you the exact date he died. I think it was early December, either 1987 or 1988. It must be intentional, this memory lapse. Why would I want to remember the most horrific day of my life-- the day my baby brother, my ONLY brother, left all who loved him?

So I'm not going to remember anything about his death today. I'm going to remember how he LIVED.

Richard Sydney Shortt II was born May 18, 1964 at Sutter Memorial Hospital located at 5151 F Street in Sacramento. Six years earlier on March 27th, I was born--same hospital, same room, and according to our mother, same bed. I'm not so sure about the bed part, but hey, I was too young to remember the first event and not allowed entry into the maternity ward for the second one. Mom came to the window of her room and proudly showed my sister Tam* and I the swaddled bundle that we were supposed to believe was our brother. We weren't buying it.

"That's a doll." Tam.

"And it's red. It's a red doll." Me.

I can't remember what Dad said in response, but it seems to me that he wasn't very happy.

Like any family, we can recall all kinds of memories--how Ricky used to spit out his pacifier when we peered into his crib. He had pinpoint accuracy. I was always hit in the forehead, and when Tam looked in, he nailed her on the nose every time. Then he would chortle gleefully. We swore that he was doing it on purpose, but Mom said it was just our imaginations. He was only four months old, after all. We weren't wrong. Ricky turned out to be a prodigy in terms of finding ways to harass his older sisters on a daily basis. His Older Sister Guerrilla War Campaign began before he was weaned off Similac.

Exhibit 1: Carefully placing his Hot Wheels, Tonka trucks and Lego toys right outside our bedroom door before Tam and I woke up in the morning. Purpose: To torture our bare feet as we headed for the bathroom in the morning.

Exhibit 2: Lobbing pieces of cantaloupe (I'm allergic to them) at me during breakfast. Laughing when they stuck to my forehead.

Exhibit 3: Turning both the bass and the volume of the stereo on full blast while I was taking an after school nap on the couch in the den. I was in high school! Teachers, hormones and constant crushes on boys seriously wore me out every afternoon. Straight cruelty!

Exhibit 4: I had a boyfriend named Sam when I was 16. I wasn't all that crazy about him, but he drove a shiny blue Mazda, and I never had a boyfriend before. Ricky decided that if Sam wanted to be my boyfriend, he was giving his consent to the same treatment I received. Poor guy never understood what had happened to him. Ricky and his little buddies from the neighborhood would run around his shiny blue Mazda, kicking in the hubcaps, jumping on the hood, and yelling "Sam, Sam the garbage can man!" This happened as soon as he parked his car in front of our house. I would be in my bedroom reading, and I suddenly heard Sam yelling, "Angie! You better do something about your brother!" Damn shame to see an 18 year old man near tears.

As mortifying as the experiences were at the time, I would pay off the United States' debt to China if I could have my brother Ricky with me today, sitting around laughing at these and many other memories. I do, however, believe that there is life after this one, and that my little brother is in the Realm Beyond, smiling because he knows how much I love and miss him.

I just wish I could tell him in person.

*Tam wasn't born at Sutter Memorial, but at Keesler Air Force Base hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi--these things happened when your father was a member of the United States Air Force. Ricky and I used to tease her by singing "Mississippi Mama, never lost a fight!" Don't tell her I said that. She still gets pissed off about it.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute to your brother, you made me laugh and reminded of the pranks I used to pull on my two sisters ;-)

  2. Thanks, Jack! I guess that's what brothers do to their sisters--make their lives miserable! LOL! I find myself laughing at those pranks at the damnedest times. I bet your sisters wouldn't trade those memories for anything, either.


Comments are always appreciated, except when they are nasty.