Friday, March 26, 2010

Death of a sibling

I have found that losing my brother has been a terribly confusing ordeal. Not just due to his unexpected and shocking suicide, but also as loss of what was supposed to be.
In writing this, I realized how warren fills my childhood memories like mokume metal. When I think of events, he is as much of a part of them as I was, thus our entities in my mind have bleed together. I cannot recall being a child as an experience distinct from being a child with brother Warren. Not that we were some inseparable team, as we weren't a close pair even if it was visually obvious that we were siblings. We had been asked if we were twins more than once.

He had all the same teaches before I did and left shoes that I had to fill. Every teacher said, "Jennifer DeLano? Your Warren's sister, right?" From that moment I knew they would expect me to be smart & well behaved. He was in some ways in the room with me, becoming the yardstick against which I was measured.

When I came home from school, he was there. I might play in the back yard and he'd be in the living room programing the Atari. We traveled together every other weekend to stay with my father in San Francisco. He studied, played the keyboard and programmed.

Only when we went to college and matured in our 20's did my memories start to form without him. Yet, I still recall dates by our relative age. He graduated high school in 1990, and we overlapped one year, so I started high school in 1989. Likewise, we both graduated in 1993 at the same time - he after 3 years at Yale, me from Gunn.

There were a few years after college where he was doing his PhD and I was trying to sort out life after college. But then he brought me on at Sunesis and, again, life was life with Warren. I'd see him daily. We'd discuss the IT situation. He encourage me to stop staying out late on Fridays and find a worthy idea to pursue passionately, as he did with PyMOL. Lunch at Sunesis was spent in philosophical, political or ideological debate with, of course, Warren and other Sunites.

He did have a life outside mine, but it seems like a side of Warren that was very distant from the man I knew as my brother. Yes, he was married. He had a house. He did home projects. He developed PyMOL and impacted the global scientific community. He had a pilot's license and flew planes on occasion.

Our interactions were distant from that world. He continually pushed me to be better, stop all that needless travel and focus on something meaningful. We discussed the impact of the mortgage crisis on the American economy. He told me to stop being so emotional and calm down about things. Yet he did want to "be there for me" when I broke up with Greg. He frustrated me by not getting mom a gift on her birthday.

As we matured, our relationship did change. We stopped annoying each other and even started to interest each other. The last year or so, I think we started to really see the other as adults separate from ourselves. I wonder how our relationship would have changed over the next ten years. Would we have finally evolved into separate beings? I assumed we'd be interesting & annoying each other for 70 more years. That we'd retire to White Sands together and sit at the same lunch table, as we did at Sunesis, and discuss politics, philosophy, economics and such. Of course, he'd probably die a few years before me - I mean, he was my OLDER brother. There, you see that? Even as I imagine my own demises, it is an event tied to Warren.

I struggle to separate us. I feel like he was the balloon and I the hot air - he was always one step, one inch, one year beyond what I am. My actions all get measured against him and he lead the way. My memories aren't of just him, they are of me & him. When I describe him, I am utterly unable to do so without including myself. I have always been in his shadow, yet he protected me from the wind & rain.

No comments: