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Reflections on “The Alchemist” Part VII

“My heart is a traitor… It doesn’t want me to go on.

Naturally it’s afraid that in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.

Well then, why should I listen to my heart?

Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet.”

I have a couple of big picture drivers in my life.

1. Have no regrets

2. Don’t do anything that would bring shame to my dad.

In 2008, my brother died. He died from an overdose of Benedryl…(I hear it all the time, I didn’t know it was possible…me neither).

He had his demons…we all do. He was a great guy, but again, he had his problems. He had been imprisoned for DUI and just got out. He started joining me at the gym and he was making great progress in the gym. He couldn’t squat more than me, but that bastard deadlifted 405 on his first attempt. (I say that out of love because it took me years to lift 405).

Anyway, we would have conversations about serious things every once in a while (we shared a room growing up. I worked overnights and was going to school and at the time he wasn’t working, so the bed was his at night and mine during the day).

Aside: those that know me, know that I am like a tornado. Wherever I go, I organize things so that they make sense to me. This usually means a bunch of separate piles with very clear distinctions between the piles. (It works for me!) Mike, on the other hand, was just a slob! He loved candy. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home after working overnights and going to school in the morning, only to find a ton of wrappers in the bed and a full cup of coke on the floor. It was like living with a big kid at times (usually that’s one of the ways I get described, but Mike took it to an extreme). I used to think that if I just pushed it all on the floor that he would clean it up…Nope. Just a new pile of wrappers the next day! I miss my brother. He was a good person and was very good to me growing up. I’m going to keep reminiscing a little because…why not?

I used to love to sing Karaoke and was actually a DJ for a while. It paid good money, but I’m glad I stayed in school because: who goes out to sing Karaoke anymore? Mike had a problem with alcohol. I’m not saying anything bad about him, it was just true. It didn’t make him a bad person, but like I said, he had demons. We went out to the bar (mind you, I didn’t drink at the time), after working out (the bar was right next door to the gym). I sang some songs, bought him a Long Island iced tea (I had no clue what this drink was prior to that night) and he listened to me sing a couple of songs. The car ride home (I’m the little brother, obviously not by size). He said, bro I’m proud of you. You grew up in the same house we all did. You can go out to the bar and drink orange juice and have a good time. You work full time and go to school. You’re going to be great at anything you do. (This memory always brings tears).

I was a new grad physical therapist. Not even practicing for a year when my mom called me in the middle of the night to scream through the phone that “I lost my baby!” Those words and that conversation is burned in my brain. That whole night at the hospital was like a haze. Hard to believe.

What’s harder to deal with is that 10+ plus years have passed and how much he’s missed out on. He was great with kids. He would’ve loved my kids. I think of all that he could’ve done and seen. He always wanted to go to Alaska. I made a copy of one of his pictures and carried it with me while we honeymooned in Alaska. I miss my brother.

I learned one thing…life is very short and don’t have any regrets.

The second big picture ideology that I try to live by is to not bring shame to my dad.

You’ll hear me say it frequently that my dad is my Superman. He knows that, which was very important for me to make sure that he knows I’m proud of him and the life he lived and continues to live.

He served as a medic for the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, in Vietnam. He stated in Vietnam longer than he had to in order to ensure that his younger brother didn’t have to go to Nam. He came home and worked in the family business (construction) for 30+ years. He divorced my birth mom (whom I have no contact with, which is why I say birth mom) and took care of all the kids as best he could. He and Aida worked hard to move us to a quieter area with less shootings. They made the decision to send me to Providence. Essentially, all of the good things I have came from that man.

I disappointed my dad one time. I was 13 and was a shoplifter. I would steal anything just to see if I could.

I got caught at the old Cub Foods on Larkin Ave. I was stealing magazines and baseball cards. I was with my cousin at the time (and I still believe that he got caught, but water under a bridge). I was fined $2,000 and was out in handcuffs, but wasn’t arrested.

I got home that night (understand that my dad typically would wake up at 3 AM to prepare for work) and it was about 11 PM. My mom told him what happened. I was never really punished (aside from paying back $2000, which at the age of 13 wasn’t easy to make…thanks to Norm Fanning for getting me a job shoveling manure). He said that “I’m disappointed in you son”.

I worked my tail off to pay back the fine by the end of summer.

It’s been 25 years and I’d like to believe that I haven’t done anything since that day to bring shame to my dad.

The moral of this story is twofold.

1. Have no regrets.

2. Have a role model in which to look up to and live up to.

Thanks for reading.

I got to go see a man about a horse.

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