Monday, November 29, 2010

Rolf . . .

. . . died today of pneumonia in Stockton, California at 9:15 PST. He was my brother and he was 62. He had been hospitalized with mental illness--undifferentiated schizophrenia--since he was 16. Most who read this are unaware that I even had a brother. It wasn't that I was embarrassed or ashamed, far from it. It was simply very sad to talk about him at all, even sadder to visit him.

He was born of a manic-depressive/schizophrenic mother who only survived and managed to care for herself until her death thanks to the discovery of lithium. Most of her illness got passed on to him, I guess. In addition, he was born with a large birthmark on his upper left cheek that was clumsily removed while a patient at the University of Minnesota during the second time my Mom was hospitalized at the mental facility in Moose Lake. It left a large scar. As if that weren't enough, he was also born with a paralyzed seventh facial nerve, a condition that forced him to smile only on the right side of his face because the left side wouldn't move. So here's a boy with a scar and a strange smile whose brother and mom were gone (I left them when I was 13 and he was 8, not long before Mom got removed to the Ha-Ha Hotel again) and who'd been banged from pillar to post.

You'd go nuts, too. If you weren't already, that is.

He came to live with me, my dad and my stepmother in California when he was 10, which was immediately after the U of M incarceration. This was after a series of foster homes while my mom was at Moose Lake. He never really adapted out west, and though quite smart became more and more inward over the next 6 years, said crazy things, laughed at all the wrong times and at all the wrong things.

And so on.

I'm not going to give any more history here. He will be cremated in Stockton, and his ashes sent to Minnesota for interment next to his mother, grandparents and an uncle. There won't be an epitaph on his marker other than to say that he was the son of Hazel Dehning. What else should be on it but won't be?

Here, I'll tell you:

He Never Had a Chance.
Or maybe even, in the language I don't think he even knew I could speak,

Pace, Fratello; Finalmente, Pace a Te.