I have two short nonfiction pieces up in Sweet 4.1. (Click the link above to read them.) They are about my brother, who I’ve been missing a lot this week. I think it has to do with the changing seasons and the start of football—something we’d always enjoy together.
Last night my husband and I watched wrestling. One character, Sin Cara, has been somewhat sensational this year. He’s from the Mexican luchadores tradition, and he’s quite flashy. The name means, apparently, “Without face,” and, as is common with luchadores, Sin Cara wrestles in a mask.
What’s interesting, and what I suspect only the most attentive wrestling fans realize, is that the Sin Cara we’re watching now isn’t actually the same person as the Sin Cara we watched initially. The first guy violated wrestling’s “wellness policy” and got suspended. But, for whatever reason—the figure’s popularity with fans, I imagine—organizers kept the character going, just putting a new person behind the mask. So last night we watched Sin Cara who was not the original Sin Cara and yet who is, by all other definitions, Sin Cara.
Maybe that’s how my fall has started off—the trappings are the same: teaching, football, weather cues. But below the surface, I know that someone who should have been here is missing.
Yesterday my students started reading Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Warren St. John’s exploration of fanaticism. I showed them a clip of the Rammer Jammer—the cheer Bama fans do after a victory, and the source of the book’s title. I chose the best example of it I know, from the ‘09 Bama-Tennessee game, when Terrence Cody blocked two field goals in the final seconds to save the Bama victory.
I told my students I’d been at the game, but I didn’t tell them that it was the last game I attended with my brother. I didn’t say that despite how desperate things were as he crept towards what we didn’t yet know would be the final year of his life, in the final moments of that game, we felt—or I did, at least—that somehow things would be okay, that the miraculous was possible.
In the support group we’ve attended periodically after Austin’s death, people talk a lot about wishing they could hear their loved one’s voice again, just once. So I don’t say this there, but I have Austin’s voice. I have a video I took at that football game, of the Rammer Jammer, and in it, Austin and I are talking before the cheer starts. He asks, Who was it? meaning, which player blocked the field goal? And I tell him, It was Cody! Cody got it! and I believe we can make it this way, with me seeing for him, leading his way.
We couldn’t, of course, and the other clips I have of his voice reveal that. When he died, I had a few voicemails from him that I hadn’t erased, and I quickly (or, full disclosure, my brother-in-law quickly) transferred them to mp3 files so I’d have them. I listen to them sometime, and mostly they make me happy. But they aren’t all lovely, and signs of his deterioration are there. In one, he forgets my name and thinks for a bit that he’s talking to our grandmother.
And maybe that’s one reason I listen to those messages every so often. They connect me to the brother I loved, certainly. But they don’t sugar coat things, and they remind me of the way things really were. He was desperate and broken. But I loved him still.
And still, still.