Early on the morning of January 30, 1993, two thieves waited in the room containing the safe for the manager of Giggles, a restaurant on West 45th Street in Manhattan, to arrive with the receipts from Friday night that would make them rich. When the manager, my brother George, entered, one man hit him in the head with his revolver. The other man handcuffed him as he lay face down on the floor. Then, having taken the $4,000 in receipts, the gunman held the end of the 6” barrel of his .357 Magnum against the back of George’s head and pulled the trigger. My brother died instantly.
George’s death reverberated way beyond my wife and kids, through hundreds of friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Over 500 people attended his funeral at Temple Emanu-el. Later, a cousin arranged for the City to plant a tree in his memory in Madison Square Park. Many of his friends helped my wife and me pack up a van with all George’s belongings.
George had lived with my mother, who was on dialysis and the leading edge of Alzheimer’s. He shopped, cooked, and made sure she had everything she needed. In addition to being strong and competent, he enjoyed doing things for others, especially when they most needed help.
For example, on Thanksgiving, he cooked many turkeys as he ran a kitchen that fed hundreds of poor and homeless. He found time to be the family historian, too. Of great importance to me was his role as uncle to my son, smoothing over the bumps of adolescence with advice no teenaged boy would hear from his father.
George also missed the high school and college graduations of his niece and nephew as well as our 25th wedding anniversary, for which he was planning to throw one of his memorable parties. More anniversaries have flowed under the bridge since then, along with birthdays and other celebrations, all without him. He missed his niece’s wedding and the birth of two grandnieces. He has also not been present for numerous weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, funerals, parties, and other events in his extended family.
I, perhaps, miss my brother George more than anyone. We had just begun exploring the adult brother relationship that should have lasted all our lives. As time passed, I began talking to my brother, much as I had done during that first year following his death. I realize that he is not “here” physically, but, as I am the last living member of my birth family, I will say his name aloud and tell him about the highs and lows of our lives. I find myself still doing this, over 27 years later.