Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My brother's books

Before my brother died, he kept all of his books on a shelf in his bedroom closet. He was a history major at Seton Hall, so it was mostly nonfiction. After he died, they remained untouched (over eighteen years now) as a sort of unacknowledged memorial to him. Except for photographs and some articles of clothing, scattered and gathering dust in a couple other closets in my parent's house, the books were the last material reminder of my brother's life (I still don't know who got rid of the other unacknowledged memorial: a sizable collection of beer caps tossed by my brother into a Molson Golden Ale box on top of the refrigerator; three of my brother's favorite activities were drinking beer, watching the New York Mets, and reading history and it wasn't unusual to find him doing all three at once).

Over a week ago, my mother informed me that my older brother had boxed the books and was throwing them out. I don't know what prompted this. My brother was on a cleaning purge and he decided it was finally time for my brother's books to go. Well aware of my difficulty to part with books, my mother correctly surmised I would intervene (I could tell by her voice that she didn't want them to be thrown out, but didn't want to get into an argument with my brother about it). So, for the past week, a very heavy box containing my brother's books has occupied the back seat of my car (I'm still waiting for a good parking spot to open up in front of my building so I won't have to carry them so far).

And, of course, I've already got a place for them on a shelf in a closet in my apartment. Does this make me a sentimentalist? Maybe. We all remember the dead in our own private way, I suppose (I could probably count the number of times I've visited my brother's grave on one hand while my parents visited every Sunday for years). I'd rather remember my brother as he lived. And, if it's very unlikely I'll ever read that textbook on the history of Poland, maybe one day I'll check out Robert K. Massie's "Peter the Great," or Robert Conquest's "Harvest of Sorrow," or Steven Runciman's "A History of the Crusades." That will be my brother's legacy to me.


Blogger Brian said...

I remember when cable was a novelty to me in the 80s that you said your brother saw at least 160 Met games a year. Next to my own brother, he was one of the great fans.

Those books might be appreciated by the few people who still go there as a donation to a library.

Have you been to a New York library lately? Mildew, musty odors, cruddy dust jackets--I'm talking about the people, not the books. Could be the area where I work, Chelsea.

7:20 PM  
Blogger angelissima said...

Its just plain wrong to dispose of books or music; especially those soaked in memory. Keep 'em on the shelf I say.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Precious and significant possessions, Mike. Of course you kept them. Good!

9:48 AM  
Blogger Darcy Stanley said...

Nothing wrong with being sentimental...I agree with Angela and Gina.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Denise Ekdahl said...

I agree with the other ladies. have a hard time parting with books that don't hold sentimental value. Enjoy the memories.

4:58 PM  

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