- I remember, in Rohnerville, Phillip on his motorcycle, tall,
his smile easy with laughter like the wind in a grassy, sunfilled field.
He’s my youngest uncle, and he took me for a ride. I sat behind him,
shy to hold around him tightly with my arms as he turned the corners.
He told me to lean as he leaned. The motor beat the wind with its noise
as we flew out the back road. We turned around before the old graveyard
gate. I was ten.
- He rode his motorcycle to Texas, and the Army. Here,
chronology is unimportant. He went to Vietnam and back. Then he
went to Vietnam and back, and then to Vietnam and back again. There,
he flew a helicopter. He was a lieutenant.
- He married Sharon, the woman of my childhood dreams. Once
they drove from Texas to visit with their two little girls, and
they stayed a week before they left. They had a son, and named him Phillip.
- Last year, leaving their three children in Kentucky
with her parents, Phillip, with Sharon, flew his small plane here to see
us before he left for Vietnam again. They landed in the rain on
the Novato airport.
- Phillip is young and strong, safe in that confidence,
I thought. He said he needs the money. I didn’t know, but he
lengthened the distance, strengthened the obscurity of the war.
Rationalizations are excuses, deadening broken feelings. After he visited
our relatives he left. I didn’t know the difference between riding a
motorcycle and flying a helicopter.
- I remember, once, drinking tea, sitting around a
table in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Aunt Ruby and
Uncle Vernon, Mom and Dad, my sister Sherri, and I were together.
I was happy, laughing and talking, bringing the Japanese leaves to
the color of my happiness. I remember Ruby, in the excitement of her
discovery, exclaiming to Mom, “Tommy reminds he so much of Phillip!
In his gestures, the way he talks, everything.” I was happy, and
proud to know Phillip in me.
- Phillip was far away. Dad’s little brother—what
is there, in that, the son? Dad’s brother—something lives
there that almost makes me cry.
- Time, and realizations are slow. Phillip is dead, I
didn’t go to the funeral.
3 September 1971