If Dino had lived...

Bridgewater Soccer Mom ponders her ultimate what-if...

Brothers Ron (left) and Dino (right) with baby sister, 1971
Plan or fate? What decides the trajectory of an individual's life? As I look back on my journey, it is hard not to wonder my biggest what if. If Dino had lived, would I still be me?

If Dino had lived would I have followed a less traditional path? 
Instead of living here in Bridgewater, a married mom to two teenagers with a "9-5 job" (well, 8-5), would I have followed in both of my brothers' footsteps and moved to California? Dino had a special gift - tinkering with engines - and a special passion - race cars - ultimately he became a Formula One race car mechanic, training under the Senior Ferrari and turning it into a business. He ran in a wild crowd, married a tall wild soul and by all accounts had a LOT of fun. What chances would I have taken? He prioritized fun in his life - do I do the same?

The siblings on Dino's wedding day - 1981
If Dino had lived would I trust people more?
When he died, my Mom, sister and I were in New York. (You can read more about that day here). My mother never shared the extent of Dino's illness with anyone except my father - including her own mother or her siblings. My father couldn't tell my sister and me that he died (although we knew about his illness, she couldn't hide it from us). Ultimately my Aunt told us that he died, even after we asked my Dad. Then my Aunt, Uncle and cousins took care of me and my sister in those first days and it created a special bond (at least for me) between us. While it took decades, I have let go of the resentment and now I have a peace about it that I didn't have even five years ago. I have had to accept that even my own parents make mistakes... so it's time to forgive them. 

If Dino had lived would I be more confident? 
As a 15 year old sophomore I was consumed with survivor's guilt. I remember bitter arguments with my Mom when I screamed that she would be in less pain if it had been me who died. Dino was beautiful. He was successful and charismatic. He defined cool with plenty of doting girlfriends and a bond with the most hip kids, all of whom are supremely successful today (he even ran a store called People's Place with Tommy Hilfiger). If I shared any of these qualities, I didn't see them. I saw a pimply, frizzy-haired, unhappy teen who was uncomfortable in her own skin. Looking in a 45 year old's mirror, I still see that girl sometimes. 

If Dino had lived would I have studied abroad? 
If there is a single thing that led me down the path of my life, it is being a foreign exchange student. Forced to establish friendships, I actively defined myself and tested my strength every day for a year. Would I have applied to move to another country and live with strangers if things were happier and more stable at home? I learned that I could make friends, learn "the hardest language in the world" and grown so much. Would I have learned these things? 

If Dino lived would we be close? 
Would he be like my wonderful brother Ron providing warm advice and love? Charismatic and popular, I don't remember Dino taking the time for "doing stuff" with me. Ron taught me to develop film in his darkroom, took me on a helicopter tour of the Golden Gate Bridge, talked to me, let me visit him when he rented a house near ours when I was in elementary school. I see him only about once a year, yet Ron makes me feel protected just knowing he is in my corner. If Dino expressed concern about me, I don't remember it. Other than Dino's wife expressly stating, "he loved you girls very much." I don't remember feeling his big brotherly love. I just remember feeling lucky to be in his field of vision. 

If he lived would I appreciate all that I have, most especially the people in my life? 
Would I know to savor every day as I do? Would I be so emotional - both good and bad? Would I appreciate all the fortune that has come my way?

What if he lived... To ask such a question on the eve of the 30th anniversary of his death seems pointless. Somehow he contracted cancer of the salivary gland which spread to his neck area, and the bones around it. Was it a calcification from a childhood disease that somehow became malignant? Was it exposure to radon or another chemical in my grandmother's home? Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were all options in 1985, and the physicians at UC Berkeley tried them all to no avail. Dino enjoyed a few months of remission, but died on December 6. 

For three decades I have wondered what this loss meant. Most of the time I sweep these thoughts under the rug. Once a year they resurface... today's that day. I remember how it felt to love him. I remember everyone in my family's suffering when he died and how the legacy of this loss continues to this day. Rest peacefully my dear brother. You are truly missed and will never be forgotten.

Editor's note: My father read this and says that it is unclear that he didn't choose not to tell us. Our Mom asked him not to. Even if it would be better to hear this news from him than from my Aunt or Uncle, I am guessing that he didn't want to argue with my mother about this just after her son died. 


Anonymous said…
Du e utrolig god å sette ord på ting! Nok en gang veldig imponert og utrolig gla for å ha fått jobba I lag med dæ. Savne dæ masse! Rina <3

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