As readers of this column know, I am fortunate to come from a large, loud Irish Catholic family. All of us have a story to tell and
love being the center of attention, well, except for my brother Tim. You see, Tim is the one in the family who is just as happy to sit back and listen to a story, take in the chaos and then wait for the perfect time to say something witty to remind us that he is the smartest one of all.
Tim is the brother who separates my sister and me from all the other brothers. He is the youngest, so he was on the receiving end of all the teasing by the older three, but he never turned it on his two sisters. Instead, he became the kind of big brother everyone should have in their lives.
All of us think we are smart, just ask us. But Tim is the one you want on any team that requires knowledge or strategy. He is the guy that made sure I got through math in high school and economics in college. He just knew stuff and could explain it to his anxiety-ridden little sister without any note of frustration or smugness. A trait I admire but don’t possess myself.
Growing up, most of the Fitzgeralds got into lots of shenanigans. Tim, not so much. But he kept his mouth shut, which if you know anything about large families, is an amazing trait. My parents often left Tim in charge of my sister and me, which meant one thing: PARTY. He was always a good sport as he would arrive home after his date with Terrie, his future wife, and survey the beer cans, overflowing ashtrays and stray people on the floor of the living room. “Just get it cleaned up,” he’d say as he walked upstairs to bed. We always did, and he never said a word. We had a neighbor for that.
Tim tried to protect his sisters from their own stupidity. He explained to me that if a guy doesn’t call you back, you don’t keep calling (hey, I was young!) and threatened another guy that if he hurt his sister, again, he would have to answer to him.
When Tim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he accepted it with his usual calmness. No ranting or raving. As time went on and the disease progressed, I would occasionally take him to an exercise class. We referred to it as ‘dance class.’ Both of us participated, which was very embarrassing—well, it was for Tim because of me. I don’t know my right from my left so he spent most of the hour redirecting my movements. Drives home were spent with the radio blasting and singing to old songs that reminded us of our youth.
Tim died on Easter. He watched the Cardinals game Saturday night. Of course, they won. Tim would only leave as a winner and went to sleep. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Terrie, who cared for him all these years while the disease slowly progressed; his three children, Jill, Jane and Neal; and two granddaughters. He also leaves behind his loud, bossy siblings who are going to be a bit lost without him. I will miss him most for his kindness, wit and the love he had for his two little sisters and his three big brothers.
Peace my Peeps.