FARGO -- Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the death of my brother, Ted. He was just 42 when he died. I think about him every week.
Ted, me, and our other brother, Howard, were very close. Maybe it was because of our tough childhoods. Our parents had a terrible marriage and a brutal divorce. Our mother, who we lived with, was broke. Later, our mother died of breast cancer. She also was only 42 when she died. As brothers, we fought a lot, but we always defended each other. We also never tattled on each other.
Ted was named the top student-athlete at his suburban Boston high school. At the University of Connecticut, he was a track star and majored in insurance. After graduation, he worked with our father at his insurance agency, but that didn’t work out. Ted liked to be on his own. So, he drove a cab and became an accomplished singer. Ted had several gigs. He loved to sing Frank Sinatra songs.
Ted had a great sense of humor and a heart of gold. He kept an index file, so he could send cards and make calls to every friend or relative on their birthdays or anniversaries. Even the annoying relatives. He had a girlfriend who he loved very much, and loved him. He was very close to my wife, Jackie, and our then young son, Brad. They had some great times together. Ted adored Brad.
Ted was thrilled to be named the godfather of our daughter, Natalie. When she was a baby, Ted used to hum the music from the movie, “The Godfather” to her, and talk to her with an awesome Marlon Brando impression. Sadly, Natalie, and our other twin daughter, Jenny, have no memories of him.
In 1999, Ted, who suffered from colitis, had a colonoscopy. He was given a clean bill of health. Shortly after that, he had severe abdominal pain. Ted didn’t think much of it. He put off going to the doctor because of his colonoscopy result, and because he couldn’t afford health insurance. The pain continued to intensify and he finally went to a doctor. He had a tumor the size of a grapefruit on his colon. Either the doctor looking at his colonoscopy made a mistake, or Ted was the unluckiest guy in the country. Ted had surgery, but it was too late. He was terminal.
Two Fargo cancer doctors gave me their honest appraisal of Ted’s condition. I visited Ted later that year, and he told me all the things he was going to do when he got better. It broke my heart. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was dying. All I could tell him was that I loved him.
Ted never got to marry his girlfriend or see my children grow up. My daughters would have loved him. Ted had so much more love and joy to spread, and it’s tragic we were denied that. I miss him so much.