Remembering and Expressing Love for a Heavyweight Big Brother

Posted on May 13, 2011 by


My Big Brother Died Today

by LaSandrarita Caldwell, on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 10:22pm

LaSandrarita Caldwell

My oldest brother died today. Theodore Caldwell. Others called him Tank, but that name never flowed for me. I always called him Theodore.
My earliest memories of my big brother dates back to the 1950s as a child. He would show up without warning at the family home in the country, sometimes in military attire, sometimes in civilian. Theodore more times than not would have a car full of buddies with him who he would proudly introduce his three younger siblings to. I remember feeling so proud, so protected and so happy to have such a big brother who would take time out of his big people’s life to drive all the way out to the country from Baltimore just to throw me up in the air, tease me, tell me long, elaborate stories about him being a famous singer or movie star and then ride off into the sunset back into the exciting life I imagined him having in the big City.

I couldn’t wait to get to school after a weekend visit from my big brother to tell everyone about my famous brother despite the fact that more times than not, some smart assed kid would punch holes in all of Theodore’s stories … stories like:

He was the lead singer for that top 40s song that everyone was singing. It turned out that the singer was white; Theodore was anything but. He created the Twist, a dance that Chubby Checkers became famous for; Theodore was just built like Chubby. He was a famous pilot in the Air Force; Theodore was in the Army and maybe drove an army Jeep every once in a while.

Despite these obvious flaws, I loved my big brother and looked forward to each new story. He told them with such zest, such excitement, such passion that it was hard not to believe them. Looking back on those days, I believe that Theodore kind of believed them himself. It made life so much more interesting for a black man in the United States in the 1950s.

I don’t remember much about my brother during the 1960s and by the end of that decade I, as a young woman wanted to experience some of that world that my brother had told me about as a child. I moved to the big City of New York and created a few stories of my own. By the 1980s, I was ready to return to Maryland and see what life would offer in the City that my brother would often tell me about.

Baltimore seemed smaller than the image Theodore had painted for me as a child. The bright lights, the parties, the well-dressed entertainers seemed to be replaced by the junkies on the street, mean spirited cops, piss-poor public school systems and lots of street crime. Theodore was now a married man with a son by the name of Dominic. A lot had changed for me as well; I now had a daughter by the name of Kia.

It came only natural to me to make sure that Kia would know her cousin Dominic and her Uncle Theodore. Every chance I could I would make sure that the two children would spend time together, taking Dominic out to the country home and making sure that he knew his grandparents and cousins as well, but

Life has a way of getting in the way of one’s plans. Dominic and Kia grew into young adults. Theodore divorced and I became overwhelmed with single parenthood. Our lives periodically met at intersections, sometimes yielding right a-ways, sometimes stopped by head on collisions. There were relationship fatalities, child births, baby-momma dramas, college graduations, relocations, court appearances, family disputes, lavish lifestyles, financial fallouts, incarcerations and sometimes … death.

Death is the biggest stop sign of all. It brings everybody and everything to a complete HALT. Everything that seemed so big in one’s life … those arguments, those irritations, those seemingly unforgivable slights … all seem so insignificant when Death visits. NOW is all that matters and right now a big part of life as you knew it is Gone forever. There is an irreplaceable void, a big empty hole that threatens to suck the rest of your life down into it. Only good memories about that missing person now comes into view … the laughs, the funny dances, the many experiences that only the two of you shared.

Life will forever remain a mystery to us that remain. It takes Death to make us humans realize the importance of life. Only when we lose a loved one do we pause long enough to appreciate the important role that they played in our lives. Perhaps on the other side, we humans will understand the true gift of Life.

Time and life separated Theodore and I several years before his death. I did not rush to his bedside when I found out about his illness several months ago. Perhaps I thought that Death would never touch my big brother. Perhaps I felt that one day he would just show up at the country home again, throw me up in the air, tease me and tell me one of his long, elaborate stories, then drive off into the sunset back into that exciting City he lived in. And just maybe one day he will.

Little Sis