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Linda K. Wertheimer Headshot

Imagining the Dad My Brother Might Have Been

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My brother always seemed destined to become a father. At age 14, Kevin babysat three neighborhood kids after school, a job we split. At 16, my brother was a Boy Scout camp counselor. Younger scouts, on the times I visited my brother at camp, flocked around him.

My brother Kevin rarely shooed away younger children. He teased them, mussed up their hair and generally adored them. He was eight years older than my cousin Al and could have decided to ignore him. Instead, he treated Al almost like a peer. With Father's Day just over, I cannot help but imagine what kind of father might my brother have been.

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My brother, Kevin

Kevin died single and childless at age 23 after apparently falling asleep at the wheel on a long-distance car trip. I was 21. As close as best friends, my brother and I had talked about the future. Our plan was to live in the same town and raise families near each other. Twenty-six years have passed since Kevin's death. I am long past the type of grief that tears a person up inside. My grief is more about peaceful reflection, a wondering about what might have been.

A year ago, my family of three marked Father's Day with little fanfare. Simon, my 3-year-old, helped me make blueberry pancakes for his Dad. Then he and his Dad played with Simon's trains. Simon bossed around his father, telling him which train engine to operate. My husband played along, sitting next to our toddler on the living room floor. Later that morning, we paddled our canoe on the Concord River. Simon used his own paddle to pretend fish and splash. His Dad, after insisting on no splashing in the boat, pointed out the dragonflies and swallows. On that canoe trip, on our late afternoon excursion to a minor league baseball game with my son's uncle, Dad and grandpa, there were many precious moments. They are the moments that make me miss something that may have been beautiful to see -- my brother as a father.

Kevin loved the outdoors, though he rarely paused to peer at bugs or birds. He rafted down rapids, competed in water-ski jumping and raced around slalom water ski courses. He was an adrenaline junkie and loved speed, whether it was on water skis, behind the wheel of a motorboat or on a bike. Then again, he died at an age when many of us are in pursuit of constant adrenaline rushes. If he had lived, maybe everything he shared with his children would have been at a rapid pace. But he, like I do now, might have found as much joy in slowing life up to experience the tiniest slivers of nature with a child.

All I can do is wonder. And yet, I have an idea of what kind of father Kevin might have been. He would have been loving and gentle, like he was with the children he babysat, like he was with me and his younger cousins. He would have been a tease. He would rarely have lost his temper because he seldom let anything rattle him. He would not have been perfect. Who is? But he definitely would have been fun. If he had lived, I have no doubt. Kevin, like the man I married, would have been a great Dad.