Imagining the Dad My Brother Might Have Been

My brother always seemed destined to become a father. At age 14, Kevin babysat three neighborhood kids after school, a job he split with me. At 16, my brother was a Boy Scout camp counselor. Younger scouts, on the few times I saw my brother at camp, flocked around him.

My brother Kevin rarely shooed away younger children. He teased them, mussed up their hair, and generally adored them. He was eight years older than my cousin Al and could have decided to ignore him. Instead, he treated Al almost like a peer. With Father’s Day just over, I cannot help but imagine. What kind of father might my brother have been?

My brother Kevin in Colorado

Kevin died single and childless at age 23 after falling asleep at the wheel on a long distance car trip. I was 21. As close as best friends, my brother and I had talked about the future. Our plan was to live in the same town and raise families near each other. Twenty-five years have passed since Kevin’s death. I am long past the type of grief that tears a person up inside. My grief is more about peaceful reflection, a wondering about what might have been.

Yesterday, my family of three marked Father’s Day with little fanfare. Simon, my 3-year-old, helped me make blueberry pancakes for his Dad. Then, he and his Dad played with Simon’s toy trains. Simon bossed his father, telling him which train engine to operate. My husband good-naturedly played along, sitting next to our toddler on the living room floor. Later that morning, we paddled our canoe on the Concord River. Simon used his own paddle to pretend fish and splash. His Dad, after insisting on no splashing in the boat, pointed out the dragonflies and swallows. On that canoe trip, on our late afternoon excursion to a minor league baseball game with my son’s uncle, Dad, and grandpa, there were many precious moments. They are the type of moments that make me miss something that may have been beautiful to see – my brother as a father.

Kevin loved the outdoors, though he rarely paused to peer at bugs or birds. He rafted down rapids, competed in water-ski jumping, and raced around slalom water ski courses. He was an adrenalin junkie and loved speed, whether it was on water skis, behind the wheel of a motorboat, or on a bike. Still, he died at an age when many of us are in pursuit of adrenalin rushes. If he had lived, maybe everything he shared with his children would have been at a rapid pace. But he, like I do now, might have soon found as much joy in taking time to experience the tiniest slivers of nature with his children.

All I can do is wonder. And yet, I have an idea of what kind of father Kevin might have been. He would have been loving and gentle, like he was with the children he babysat, like he was with me and his younger cousins. He would have been a tease. He would rarely have lost his temper because he seldom let anything rattle him. He would not have been perfect. Who is? But he definitely would have been fun. If he had lived, I have no doubt. Kevin, like the man I married, would have been a great Dad.

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7 Responses to Imagining the Dad My Brother Might Have Been

  1. Tawnell Hobbs says:

    Truly beautiful, Linda.

  2. Judy BF says:

    Linda–This is a beautiful piece. Wistful in the best way. You truly show that Kevin’s memory is a blessing for you.

  3. Linda says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments. Mourning of course is a process that evolves. Linda

  4. Ilana DeBare says:

    Lovely post, Linda, and what a Father’s Day honor both to Kevin and your husband,

  5. Meg Tuite says:

    Dear Linda,
    This was beautiful and heartbreaking!!! What an amazing photo of your brother, also!!! He looks like he’s lit from within!! A bright star!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. Linda says:

    Dear Meg,
    Thank you so much for reading it – and commenting Yes, my brother definitely was one of those people with a beautiful spark. After he died, one of his high school teachers wrote us how he was always that kid who just lit up the room with his smile. Linda

  7. Robin Black says:

    This is very beautiful. I’m so glad I read it. Thank you for writing and sharing it.

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