My brother, Barry, would have been 50 On December 18, the week before Christmas. He didn’t make it.

Many were surprised he made 46.

I wasn’t.

Barry was a rolling thunder storm of an accident in many ways, but he always seemed to come through.

He made me angry and sad and happy and frustrated and loved and wanting to know if we all had a curse on us. This step, where life, this trickery of a fuckery on us all, would take all the McCallum men in South Africa before middle age had had its way with us.

Barry fucked things up in spectacular ways. But he made life spectacular and made you see things in a way that you wished was true.

Because he stayed true to what he believed. He never strayed from what he thought he was right, no matter how squirrely and stroppy he got. He was a hard man that way.

We were probably more similar than we liked to admit. We would never let the other know that. Which was wrong and right.

He held me together when Brian died in , did all the stuff I couldn’t do.

Then he died.

In the most Barry way possible. So fucked up and extraordinary. I still shiver at how it must have been. The way I write, I try to step into the skin of the people I speak to.



What you must have gone through that day and the days after the car blew up. Those days I can’t count and want to fight. You must have known some of it. You were too aware of yourself not to. Too in love with living to give up.

But I knew you had the slimmest of chances. I waited every day for the call. It came when I had had a few drinks. You were still alive when I got to you.

I was glad about it that.

I said goodbye.

That was needed.

I never got to say goodbye to my dad, who I had drifted away from due to his drinking and hardness towards my mother. He died on a Christmas morning. This year marked the 10th year since he left us.

I cried for him and our lost years.

I never got to say goodbye to Brian, who had my dad’s curse, possibly worse.

He wanted to be loved and he was. By all. But he wanted contentment and stability, and couldn’t find it. His death was a shock and a relief.

In March, we read my mother her last rites. She told me on the Friday before lockdown she thought she was going to die. She is still around. I think she seeks that same relief, a long sleep.

I dream about them all a lot.

We fight and rumble on. That life of uncertainty and sacrifice and hardness and eclipses of joy and success and then death.

There is a way of approaching anniversaries that makes them a thing of marking time.

I mark today as a reminder of how lucky I am to have found the love I thought I had lost again and to be able to sit with her these few days before Christmas and let her play music for no good reason other than it is what is music is made for.

I miss Barry today. But the missing has less of the sharp cut of hurt it did a year ago. I cried myself out for two years.

Now, I just miss having a brother to talk to. I miss a friend. I miss his curmudgeonly weirdness. I miss watching him hug his boys and seeing how they loved him.

I miss being able to say happy birthday to him.