Frankie and Marion
I don’t remember my brother holding on to me as we sat on the steps of our old farmhouse. The picture of the two of us would suggest that he was protecting me from falling off the landing. I think it also reveals some sort of special bond, or perhaps an unspoken secret between us.
I have a vague memory of my brother holding my hand as we stood on the sidewalk outside our great-aunt’s home in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He seems to be holding me back from racing ahead to some unknown danger on that street. Or perhaps it was from some personal danger that he knew all too well.
The next time I remember holding my brother’s hands was decades later, as we danced at his son’s wedding. He had developed farmer’s hands, weathered and calloused from years of working the soil, repairing machinery and enduring the bitter weather of North Dakota. It is not difficult to discern his occupation, for he wears it on his hands.
This spring, five years after that wedding, we were sitting at his kitchen table. No steps outside to sit on, no sidewalks to race down, no dance steps to follow. Now it was my turn to be the hand-holder, as I attempted to stop the tremors which neither he nor his medication seemed able to control. I gently reached over and patted his hand. I knew that my touch was but a temporary respite from the uncontrollable movements. The truth was, I was really making an attempt to let him know that I understood.
I find myself pondering why my brother was one of those unfortunate men who get Parkinson’s disease way too early in life. I have researched this illness, and discovered that its exact cause is undetermined, although theories suggest a link to genetic predisposition or perhaps an exposure to the many chemicals that are used by those in the field of agriculture.
I wonder about these things, as I have wondered about a lot of things the last few years. I do know that some little children, who experience things that no little child should experience, are forced to keep quiet and be still.
Lately I wonder if there is a time when the hands of those little children can no longer obey such a command.
I love you, Frankie.