I have had five siblings. Three are alive and two are deceased. The deceased are one sister and one brother. The brother died in very early infancy just a few hours I believe after his birth, his name was Terrance. Perhaps he was even what was called a “still birth”. My parents are not around to clarify at this time. There was a funeral of sorts I guess but no one but my parents attended that I recall, too intense and hard to explain to little kids maybe. I do very vividly remember though a picture of him in his little casket. He was the youngest of five kids born to my mother all in relatively quick succession as seemed to be the pattern in Irish Catholic families in America post World War Two.

My sister Mary was adopted in 1963 and I often wondered perhaps this was an attempt to replace the loss of Terrance. She was adopted from I believe Catholic Charities out of Gary Indiana. Traumatically, especially for my mother, and tragically she was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 20 in 1984 returning from a music recital, she was a musician in a chamber group. The drunk driver was already on the road without a license having had it suspended for a previous DUI. My mother it seemed never recovered from this in no small part I suspect from having gotten to the emergency department and walked into a scene with my sister’s chest being cracked in a futile attempt to repair a ruptured aorta.

My youngest brother Phil has been a farmer in Northern Illinois all his life and remains so today. He has two adult daughters but lost his wife to pancreatic cancer in 2002. He is relatively well but does have a few nagging chronic health issues that will now finally be addressed with out bankruptcy since he has just qualified for Medicare. I do believe small American farmers are one of the most abused segments of our population right up there with those who serve in the military but this would be a topic best explored at a later date.

My other brother Brian is a true testament to the strength of human resilience. He had moved out to Colorado with several others and myself in 1972. He did return to Illinois in the early 1980’s and worked as an OR tech. Returning late one night in 1985 from an on-call OR case he fell asleep at the wheel and plowed into a telephone poll. He very narrowly escaped death but was left blind. He currently is doing well again living independently with his seeing-eye dog Nash after a serious health issue this past fall involving a brain abscess. Apparently a hole in one of his frontal sinuses that was patched back in 1983 redeveloped and resulted in bacteria getting into his frontal lobe. Any bacterium that gets into your brain is not good news.

Before I move on to my sister Kathy, the true matriarch of the family, let me acknowledge that this is sounding like I am a candidate for that old TV show called “Queen for a Day”. The contestants, I think there were usually three, would relate their tales of woe and then the one who got the most audience response and sympathy as measured by an applause meter would be Queen for a Day and win a bunch of prizes.

My sister Kathy is truly the glue holding the large extended family back in Northern Illinois together. Despite a recent repair of her stable aortic aneurysm and a few other chronic typically American ailments she continues to be a rock of support for the immediate family now starting to include for her great grandchildren. She is retired from a long career in nursing which I suspect has helped greatly in stewarding many family members through various health issues and crises’ and preventing them from being killed by the medical establishment.

We all rarely get together these days but there are no acrimonious relationships. Perhaps we persist and survive because we have inherited the resilient Irish genes from ancestors who were able to flee the great potato famine of the 1800’s. It is definitely not a strong Catholic faith that sustains us since that has been pretty unanimously thrown overboard by siblings and myself.

I do though appreciate the ironic fact that I am in relatively better shape physically than my siblings and I have fucking AIDS. That can not be chalked up to good clean living on my part so perhaps it is those old Irish genes again.