It was 29 years ago today that my brother, Gregory, died in the hospital. He was 11 days old. He had been born prematurely and in 1977, this was a much more serious condition than it is today–it goes to show you how far medicine and technology has come in three decades.
I remember that we happened to be at the hospital on the day that he died. I was 5-1/2 years old at the time and didn’t really understand too well what was going on, except for the fact that the people around me were very sad. My Grandpa and Grandma were also at the hospital on that day. I remember sitting in a waiting room, high up above the city. It was my Grandpa who came up to me to tell me that Gregory had died. He put me up in the window and told me. I knew that people were supposed to cry when other people died, so I cried. My Grandpa told me to cut it out. (He wasn’t the most emotional person back then…)
Memories can be strange, and as uncontrollable and random and the flight of dragonflies. What I remember most from that day, was the fact that I was introduced, for the first time, to a white board and dry-erase markers. They had them in the waiting room, presumably for kids to play with.
There was a funeral some days later. I recall being there, standing graveside, but I recall no other details about it.
Four years later, in 1981, I recall coming home from school one day. No one was home yet and that was not unusual. For some reason, I was thinking about Gregory, and in the kitchen, upstairs, I sat down on the floor and cried for several minutes. It was the only time since the day he died that I did that. And I haven’t done it since.
But I always remember the day, September 4, 1977. My diary entry from ten years ago, September 4, 1996 begins with, “It was 19 years ago today that Gregory died…” It seems strange now to think that I might have had another brother, younger than Doug but older than Jen. It is even stranger to think that more than a generation has passed since that day in the hospital waiting room.
I’ve said before that people live on in the memories of other people. I don’t have very many memories of Gregory Matthew Rubin, and the ones that I do have are a little bit scary. But I have always told myself that if I ever had boys of my own, the first would be named Greg and the second would be named Matt. (And if there was a third, well, naturally, he would be named Paul.)