Friday, March 25, 2011

In Memoriam

My brother died December 14, 2005. I wrote what follows in the middle of the night two days later. It is very raw, somewhat profane. If you had ever met him, you would understand that profanity was a virtue with him. Regardless, I still have a hard time READING it...he would have been 50 today.

A Failure of Expectations

It wasn't long after Billy was born that my parents knew something was wrong, it would take years to pin it down, but even then, it wasn't right.

I remember sitting in the back of the station wagon on the street or parking lot outside Michael Reese Hospital while Mom and Dad visited Billy. I can't pin down in my mind when that was, but I think it was when Billy was 4 or might have been one year either way. But the result of that stay was the beginning of Billy failing to live up to the expectations put on him by others. The doctors said, 30 would be a miracle, and that he would spend much of his last years in a wheel chair. They had found we carried a rare genetic condition, though they didn't know they were talking about the wrong one. See, they had never met a McCallister / Coyle combination before.

Every year for vacation we went camping. God we were merciless to Billy. No excuses, get off your ass and do it. Kids can push really hard, often too hard. It would have been easy to break the spirit of a kid that just couldn't, but that damn McCallister / Coyle combination was a bitch. Around the time Billy was 10 or so, it could have been a couple years later, I don't measure time well with our family, we took a vacation and we brought a wheelchair for Billy. It was the year of the Mammoth Cave trip. I only had one short conversation with Billy about that trip, and it was soon afterwards....he HATED that damn wheelchair. Said it was the first time he ever felt like a cripple and he would be damned if he would ever use one again. It was the first time he said fuck you to expectations.

Billy was a son of a bitch. He could be such a pain in the ass. He drove everyone nuts. And, he was the first of us kids to clearly provoke another McCallister/Coyle trait. Loyalty. People defended Billy. It wasn't pity, though I thought so at the time...give me a break, I was young and stupid then. Being a friend of Billy had a cost, you couldn't look down at him, he wouldn't accept it and he was quick to point it out. I saw it played out with Susie and Patty Shaw. Don't fuck with Billy or you risked their wrath.

It didn't stop there. When Billy started working, he pissed off people. He always put down that he was disabled on applications. Somehow, it always seemed to be forgotten. He would work his ass off and people would be pissed because he was showing them up. Eventually he would hit a wall and when he said he could not do something (usually the hardest piece of crap work they could find) they would look at him like he was from another planet...then he would remind them. Usually, that was when things changed.

Billy wanted to travel. He found out that if he worked for an airline, he could do lots of traveling, cheap. It took awhile, but he got a job at the airport working for a company that worked for the airlines. McCallister / Coyle trait - perseverance. We just don't give up. It took a couple of years, but Billy finally got a job at United. They really didn't have a choice. He had the recommendation of just about every supervisor in the place. Another bunch of years saying fuck you to expectations.

He worked too hard. He got too much work done. He made friends in all the wrong places...the people that cared. He was into his 20's. He played golf, how? The doctors couldn't explain it. He bowled, how? The doctors couldn't explain it. He loved Jerry Lewis but would never be considered a poster child for MD...hell, he worked, he played...he didn't even sit in a damn wheelchair. The expectation was that he would live with Mom and Dad until the end of his days, or theirs. Fuck that.

He met a woman. Wooed her. Married her. Some people didn't get it. But I bet Susie and Patty understood. Karen certainly did. They worked, they travelled. Billy loved the holidays. Triple time at work. He would put in 48, 56 hours, work double shifts on Christmas. He brought home more in the two weeks of the holidays than most of his co-workers did in two months. Supervisors would call Billy first. He almost never turned them down. He pissed people off, but it was the type of people that had no expectations, for themselves.

Then he moved. Why was it so shocking at the time? He was 30 something, he was confounding doctors, still. He had a life and it was his.

There is something you may or may not realize. It is damn hard to kill a Coyle. Steve was hit by a car when he was 8 ??

The impact should have killed him. The landing on the curb should have killed him. The damage should have killed him. Mom probably would have killed him.

Dad's THIRD heart attack should have killed him, certainly the fourth, fifth or sixth one....hell, he drove himself to the hospital on #7.

A year or two ago the doctors said Billy's heart was twice the size of normal. DUH! Anyone could have told them that. Anyone that knew him. He was 40. Damn the expectations.

No one expected Billy to be around this year. Except, Billy....that or he just didn't give a damn what others expected. The only thing you could concretely say about Billy was that Billy's life was determined by Billy, no one or nothing else.

You know, after a while, you give up waiting for people to live down to the expectations. You give up figuring out what is next because it is all unexpected ground. I knew Billy wasn't getting out of the hospital, but damn it, that was my expectation of him....and why it hurts so much to lose him. He spent 40 years failing to live down to others expectations and setting his own way.

He was supposed to die a long time ago. He spent almost 2 months in the hospital. It's damn hard to kill a Coyle...I don't think you can do it without permission. Billy gave that permission this weekend, but I know sometime, deep down, he said

Fuck you, you mother fucking asshole, jerk. You see, there is one other McCallister / Coyle trait Billy displayed, we might not win all the time, but your not going to beat us easy. Fuck you death, you had to work for this one.

I don't know if Uncle Paul played golf. Maybe Billy will teach him. I don't know about you, your faiths, your beliefs, but Billy taught everyone around him that expectations are not truths. I fully expect to see Billy again....