I'd been saying, lately, that there have been too damn many Rolling Stone special issues this year. Bowie. Prince. It was a relief that the Pink Floyd issue had been a salute rather than a memorial.
Now, I've lost someone who won't get a Rolling Stone cover, and won't have a thousand blog posts telling the world what we've lost and why we should be glad they were here. Just me (and a few Facebook pages), to tell anyone passing by why we'll miss my brother-in-law, Joe.
Joe (or Joey, as he was usually called then) was the youngest brother of the girl I fell in love with in high school. He was young enough that his sister still thought he was pretty cute, and that his older brother (younger than said sister, though) beat on him and teased him mercilessly. It was a noisy house, and I could tell they loved each other even through all the screaming at each other.
As I grew up, Joe grew behind us all, at one point telling his sister it was cool now that we were the same age, which we pretty much were despite any difference in calendar passage.
After I married his sister, late in all our lives, we had a habit of giving each other the coolest presents we could find, since there was a lot of overlap in our tastes and habits. I think the last one I gave him, a few weeks late for his birthday, was a micro-drone with a built-in camera, something that would have been only science fiction when we were all much younger.
On New Year's Day of 2015, their father fell and broke his pelvis, which meant that much of the next year was focused on helping him recover and remodeling the old family house to accomodate his needs. The three kids, now with their own families and careers, juggled helping their mother take care of him with taking care of their own situations, which predictably led to occasional friction among them all. Still, they managed, by and large.
He'd had some heart troubles, and his family has a history of such, so he was working on getting in better shape and taking care of himself and his family. His wife had a major gastrointestinal surgery, and she was finally showing signs of recovering from that. They spent much of their time at a cabin in the woods with their kids and family and friends, and Joe went to as many concerts with friends as he could find time for, seeming to make up for some lost time.
This evening he had a heart attack, and didn't survive this one. My wife, her kids, Joe's wife and kids, and his parents and aunts and uncles, are all in heavy shock. They can barely move, barely think, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do to help them. I feel... numb, at the moment. It's still too abstract for me to grasp how I feel.
I lost my grandmother a few years ago, but that was after a long, slow decline in her health, and was not unexpected; in truth, it was a sad relief after the last few weeks became unbearable for her, and there wasn't much we could do to relieve her.
This? This came like a bolt out of the blue. Everyone is stunned, trying to find meaning, asking why he had to die when his wife and children need him, when he was still so young. I'm not asking "Why?", myself; but I am trying to think of "How?"; how can I help the rest of them keep going, keep finding a way to get through an unimaginable loss, to find a new day worth facing with so much missing from it.
And I don't have any answers.
I don't even have any good ideas.
All I have is time, time he doesn't have any more. And even though I know it can't be enough, I've got to hope I can make it be enough.
A few days later: I was driving along, and my AC/DC playlist came on… and I lost it. Driving way too fast, ugly crying, and wailing with metal blasting out my ears.
So I thought I ought to share. Playlist with songs that make me think of Joe:
The song that set me off in particular?
Music was one of the areas where our tastes had a lot of overlap. I damn near convinced him to name his youngest "Angus Malcolm", which I persist in calling him. (He's six, at the time I write this. He doesn't get it, but he doesn't mind too much.)
He liked it loud. So do I.
Miss you, man.