Losing someone close to you is always hard, but when it’s something that didn’t have to happen, when they make a choice you don’t quite understand, there’s a lot of frustration to go along with the sorrow. My brother Joe had been planning this for a while, and I guess he was at peace with it, but there wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been resolved if he’d asked for help. He didn’t want to be a burden on anybody. If he had any faults, just one, it was that he was too proud. Thinking about it, years ago, I was talking about the brevity of our lives. He surprised me and became angry. He rarely got mad. I’m wondering if he didn’t make this decision a long time ago, to move on as his quality of life began to decline. He was certain of an afterlife, and might get a new beginning there.
Joe helped me get my blues library started. I was in my last months on Capitol Hill, having recently given up drinking and getting pounded by a whole new set of problems. I was helpless at the time. I tried AA, but the 12 Steps and the meetings turned me off. I needed an outlet, and Joe handed me a portable cassette player, with tapes by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Tom McFarland. I’ve been playing the blues ever since.
Joe loved all music, except for something known as “the 70s” (we used to argue about the relevance and aesthetics of that era). He was a huge Beatles fan growing up, and I have a deep admiration for Ringo Starr, so nothing but this seems more appropriate right now: