Address Unknown

An open letter to my brother

By Brian Doyle | February 28, 2014


In the two years since my brother Kevin died, at age 64, on a summer afternoon, I have often wanted to write to him—partly from long habit, as I wrote to him steadily for years, and partly because there continue to be many things I wish to tell him, even if he can no longer open my letters.

But I did not write, having no address for him in his current form, and being unwilling to have my own letter returned to me, sad and bedraggled after a fruitless voyage; I think I would weep at that, and I have wept enough.

But I realize this morning that I can write a letter, and perhaps he can read it, if I do not mail it in traditional form, but post it in the electrosphere; for he is himself now free ions and electrons, and probably capable of apprehending and understanding matters far beyond my ken; so I sit down and begin.


Your grandson is now a year old, and rotund and hilarious, and wobbling to his feet, mostly holding onto furniture as he cruises around the room. I report with horror that his mother makes him wear bow ties at social events. I’ll take care of that. The Los Angeles Lakers are incredibly awful this year and it’s delicious to watch and you and I would have enjoyed every egregious minute. The tree your wife and children planted in your memory is now 15 feet tall. The wood ducks are a little late this year; it’s been a hard winter. Notre Dame had a decent year in football. Your wake was hilarious, like you wanted. I still have your last message on my phone. I worry about my kids, and will you keep an eye on them? Whenever I see an owl I want to call you. I bet a hundred people think about you every few days, which is a cool epitaph. I saw mom and dad a while ago, and they told me the story again about how you didn’t talk at all for your first couple of years and they were getting really worried, and then you said clear as a bell, Is that a greenhouse? which still makes dad laugh. Mom and dad are getting more fragile and papery and transparent and illuminated by the day. Bruce Springsteen has not announced he will run for president in 2016, but I have high hopes. I have been reading a great number of books about otters and badgers and foxes. The other day when I asked our dog where you were, he turned immediately to the west. I found this fascinating and was going to call but this note will have to suffice. I have to go and pick up a child now. I love you, man. Send me a postcard?

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