06:53:16 am on
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018

My Other Brother
AJ Robinson


Jo Ann and Dan

When you come from a family of boys, all boys, brothers are all you have. Thinking of yet another brother rarely comes into your mind. In my case, my oldest nephew and niece are the little brother and sister I never had. Still, there is another person I was happy to call brother.


Dan was the stereotype black sheep, of the family.

Daniel de la Osa was my brother-in-law and, to put it mildly, was a colourful character. When I first met him, it was clear he was different from the rest of our family. It was soon obvious, to me, anyway, that he’d always been a maverick, especially as the family regaled me with tales of his childhood antics.

One incident stood out. Dan was in high school and grounded for some shenanigan or another. Well, his friends weren’t about to let that stand in the way of them including him an evening of festivities.

Their plan was made all the easier by virtue of the fact that his bedroom was on the ground floor. They simply came knocking on his window and proceeded to climb in, pizza and beer in hand. In no time, they had quite the little party going and it seemed as if the night would pass pleasantly.

Fate can be a cruel mistress. Dan made one critical mistake: he neglected to lock his bedroom door. His dad, Ralph, just happened to stroll down the hall and decided to check on Dan. Truthfully, Ralph felt a bit guilty about being so hard on his son and he wanted to talk.

The bedroom door opened. The boys froze. Dan and Ralph locked eyes. Pandemonium reined for the next several minutes.

As my wife, Jo Ann, told me, despite the laws of physics, four tall beefy teenage boys managed to shot out a tiny window in under a minute, screaming in terror as they ran into the night. Poor Dan really caught it bad and, unfortunately for the others boys, Ralph knew their names. By the time each of them got home, their parents knew everything.

Arcadia was quite the quiet town for the next few evenings, What with all the most active boys grounded. Memories are made of such antics.

That was just one of the many indiscretions of Dan. When we met, he lived in Palm Bay, on the east coast of Florida. He worked as a wallpaper hanger and repairperson. Those were merely his glamorous day jobs.

The true career, for Dan, his calling, was something else entirely: legalizing marijuana. Dan was an advocate for legalization, had been for most of his adult life; he fought tirelessly to change hearts, minds and laws and he succeeded. He became a staunch supporter of Elvy Musikka and the movements she was active in; he convinced Jo Ann and me to participate, as well.

Dan could be extreme, sometimes, especially with something that drove his passion. Once he was on a cause, he defended it like a momma bear protecting her cub. He’d go off on some tirade about the government, big pharma, the local police or something else; we’d roll our eyes until Jo Ann would finally tell him to cool it.

Yet, through the highs and the lows, there was always mutual love and respect. Dan was always there when family or friends needed something. Last December it was his turn to need help. The diagnosis was n-stage lung cancer.


Life took a hard turn for Dan.

The oncologist gave him two weeks to two months. Everybody was devastated. Jo Ann and I offered him our extra bedroom, but he refused, wanting to stay in his house, his little bungalow, on the quiet street he called home for so many years.

Everybody worried about him, all alone. Would he eat right? How would he get to appointments with his physicians? What if he had a fall or got hurt?

It turned out that Dan had many friends, among them almost everyone on his street. They came together to help him in every way possible. Dan wanted for nothing. Jo Ann and Alexa, our daughter, visited often. As the days turned to weeks, everyone did everything to see to his comfort, and Dan did well.

As February ended, I gave Alexa a message for him. I said, “Now, you remind Dan that the doctor said two months on December 29th, but this is not a Leap Year, there’s no 29th this month, so he has to hang on for at least another month! There’s no cheating allowed here.”

She smiled, yet choked back a tear. Often a bit of humour is all that keeps us from falling apart. Finally, on March 25th, Dan called to say he was ready to come live with us.

Although it was short notice, we didn’t mind or hesitate to take action. We went to pick him up, at once. Our journey was fruitless. Dan was in far too poor a condition for us to care for him.

We called an ambulance. The hospital admitted him, right away. Plans began to get him into a hospice. Then, late Tuesday night, technically early Wednesday morning, Jo got a call from the hospital: Dan was gone.

It was March 28th. He’d almost made it to the 29th, as I’d asked. That was Dan for you, always trying to please friends and family alike.


Dan was defiant to the end.

That Tuesday morning, Jo had another call from the hospital. Dan was trying to make a break for it. He was standing at the top of a staircase, loudly proclaiming that, “by the authority of the President of the United States,” he had the right to leave.

It took quite a lot of effort on the part of the staff to get him back to his room. That image, burned into the gallery of my memories. It’s how I shall remember Dan.

He was my brother-in-law by marriage, but I was proud and happy to call him brother.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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