The Distance of Brothers
by Thomas D. Reynolds

My father, feeling nostalgic,
drives through the old neighborhood,

and after visiting his mother's house,
or the vacant lot,

since the house had been razed years ago,
he walks down the street

to the house where his brother lived
at the time of his death.

He is standing at the gate,
thinking back over the years,

his childhood,
though his brother was so much older,

nearly an adult by the time he was born;
therefore there are no memories

of wrestling after school
or riding bikes down the hill.

When my father was six,
his brother was fighting in World War II.

Upon his return, he was more distant than ever,
and refused to talk about his experiences.

As my father stands at the gate,
a man of forty exits the house

and walks to a gray Chevy.
They see each other and are incredulous.

At the gate is the man's brother,
dead fifteen years,

and with hand poised on the car door
is my father's brother,

circa 1958, with thick black hair,
though not in the old pompadour.

They introduce each other
and it is his brother's youngest son,

now living in the old house.
They reminiscence for a few minutes

with the ease of new acquaintances.
"He seemed genuinely pleased to see me,"

my father will later tell me.
His nephew shows him the old house,

and in a brief lull in the conversation,
really no more than a minute or so,

they look at the backyard, how the grass
is still thick but the old fence is gone.

About that time there is nothing left to say,
or else the nephew needs to get somewhere,

because he keeps trying
not to glance at his watch.

So my father says it's time to go,
at which time the nephew grows more cordial,

patting my father on the back
and telling him to stop by any time,

though he often works late,
sometimes even on weekends.

They part with a handshake
and a suggestion to keep in touch.

In the car on the way home,
the presence of his brother

is so overwhelming,
my father nearly weeps.

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