My brother's relationship with my father was difficult to say the least. My dad could be physically abusive, mentally abusive, and emotionally abusive. It was a painful trinity. When Byard Lee was born, my dad was only eighteen --still a kid himself. My dad was too busy with his own friends, work, and outdoor sports to pay much attention to my brother and attention was the one thing he needed most. Without going into a lot of detail, my brother had a pretty rough life. Yes, some of it was due to his own decisions and actions, but a lot was due to the environment and things beyond his control. You know, the whole nature/nurture thing.
The day Byard Lee died, I called my uncle (who he had lived with for awhile some years ago) to give him the news. His response was that my brother didn't have such a great life anyway.
I drove to the town where my brother lived the day after he died, hoping I could help his adopted daughter and his biological daughter in any way I could. I never really had a chance to build the bond I wanted with my brother while he was alive, so I wanted to at least be there for him in his death.
His daughters suspected me of coming down to try and "pilfer" anything I could grab. I didn't waste my time telling them that Byard Lee really didn't have anything. Ironically, they were the ones who called me the day before, the day he died, asking for my help and support.
Because of what they thought and because of their own ignorance, I wasn't allowed to speak at my brother's funeral. In fact, no one was allowed to speak. His services were conducted at the Veteran's cemetery and they were short, efficient, and cold.
I wanted to do something for my brother and to help get past some of the grief I felt. They say we often miss most the relationships we never had a chance to develop. I knew that was the case for me. I wanted to write something for him --but more for me-- something that would help alleviate some of the pain, guilt, and longing for a relationship that would now never be.
Byard Lee's life was one of pain, but there was one thing that stood out in my memory and that is what I decided to write about.
So this is for my brother, who some would say I didn't even know that well. That may be. But even so, I miss him more than I can begin to say.
He Could Laugh
For My Brother
Byard Lee Martin
Byard came into this world,
Born of parents who –
Whatever their shortcomings –
Did in their own way,
The best they could do,
Not fully realizing,
The gift of this dark-haired,
But Byard could laugh…
As a kid playing with his sister and brothers,
Playing and learning,
Pretending what could really be.
His face lit up and happy,
The laughter coming from deep inside him.
Byard grew up lacking and wanting,
Lacking the affirmation all of us need.
Wanting his love reflected,
Often angry and lashing out,
Fighting to find his place in this world,
Needing a figure to help him find the right of things,
To reaffirm the goodness within him…
But Byard could laugh…
With an intelligence and wit,
That went beyond his years.
A natural insight into the absurdity of life,
Seeing the odd quirks in everyone,
And in himself,
While finding that glimpse of joy,
And sharing it with each of us.
Laughing with his family,
The laughter shaking him from deep inside.
Byard lived much of his life,
Tormented but trying,
Making whatever sense he could of the world,
Using whatever tools he was given.
Not always grasping all of his hopes,
But always reaching,
And in his own way,
Doing the best he could do...
And Byard could laugh…
Laugh at the madness of life,
Seeing through the bullshit,
Of any person or topic that didn’t ring true.
Laugh at the ridiculous importance the superficial felt,
With an innate sense of what was real,
Knowing deep down inside,
That the heart was all that really mattered,
The laughter pulling us all together,
Coming from his heart.
We will all miss him and the chances we never had,
To share the love that was always there.
But those thoughts feed regret –
Something my brother would want us all to be free of.
He would want us to remember the laughter.
Rest easy Byard,
Be free as well,
Knowing we will remember your laughter,
Knowing that all of us loved you,
More than we could say,
But we did the best we could do…