Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Thanks... You Always Know What I Like"

Today is my brother's birthday. It is the third one since his passing; he would have been forty-three. The sting is significantly less than the previous years, for which makes me feel equally grateful and guilty.

One of the things I miss most (after being with him, of course), is picking out his present. For years, it has always been a book, movie, or CD. The CDs became more difficult, as he had everything, and didn't tend to like much new music (if there was a 24 hour Sinatra station, he would have tuned in and never changed the channel, except maybe to listen to Sting.)

In an effort to re-calibrate my gift-giving instincts, I would occasionally ask Kip to give a sort of status on what I already knew he liked. This is how I found out he'd over-saturated himself in Civil War titles and was backing off. In the last few years of his life, he's developed an interest in WWI, because there was not a lot of written. He never tired of Watergate, the topic of his undergraduate thesis, and there was little of this out there too.

Kip wasn't just interested in history. Of course there was contemporary politics, which I could never get my head around because, beyond the radical big-mouths (the Rush's, the Ann Coulter's, and he had all of those...) he had the books of the people I not only didn't recognize, I couldn't even identify their general job titles, and it made me feel dumb.

The pop culture books were always an option. Kip loved biographies and the hefty coffeetable-esque books of photography. Books on the history of the Oscars, vintage movie star bios, or heady tomes on the affects of a particular generation thrilled him.

On his fortieth birthday, I told Kip I would throw him any kind of party he wished. He opted for a quiet, small group of family and friends. He came over early and I was so proud of my find, I made him open it before anyone got there. It was a book that I cannot readily access (I just spent more time than I would care to admit trying to track it down...) but it was about the year 1973. More specifically, it was an exploration of popular culture during the Watergate era. I didn't even mind that he did not help get ready for his party because he was engrossed.

My brother died nineteen days after that party. His death was a shock and yet he had been very ill for a number of years leading up it. I was grateful that he was in the midst of lingering birthday celebratory events during those weeks.

A week before he died, he sent me a thank you card. "Thanks for hosting my birthday party. I had a great time. And thanks for my book, you always know what I like."


  1. I used to think of Kip as the Alex P. Keaton of our school. I didn't remember that he and PJ shared a b-day.

  2. Thanks Lia. I enjoyed reading this posting and thinking about Kip again. Cheers.