Aaron died of a heart attack. After three days of not knowing what killed Aaron, we finally found out that it was a heart attack. It’s not the medical term, but it’s the type of heart attack that doctors commonly refer to as “The Widow Maker.” Alex filled in the details: it’s when the left artery becomes fully blocked, resulting in a catastrophic heart attack. The knowledge of knowing what had happened to Aaron helped us get out of that purgatory. There was a sense of relief in knowing what it was, but now we moved on to the harder part of figuring out what to do next. I think of all of those families who deal with missing children or those missing during war. The knowledge of knowing what happened does add a weird sense of closure but opens the door to the next phase of grief. Whatever that may be. I replay Bob’s phone call in my brain often. I replay the call I had to make to my parents often. I sometimes think about what that scene must have looked like with Aaron on the ground. It’s almost like I’m just hovering over him, while he lays there on the bathroom floor. I’ve asked Bob not to ever, ever, ever tell me what Aaron was wearing when he died. For years, my brother and I were obsessed with what people are wearing during climatic/suspenseful scenes in movies: Elisabeth Shue’s scarf in “Adventures in Babysitting”; Martha Plimpton’s scarf/hoodie in “The Goonies”; Kate Capshaw’s robe in “Temple of Doom”; Kim Basinger’s pink dress in “Nadine.” At the end of any mystery novel or horror book we both read, we would dissect the storyline, but there was always talk about what the hero or heroine was wearing. And it usually involved something like “Gwen got tore up in the end of that book! And yet somehow she had that purse strapped across her torso the entire time.” I think it was a weird twin thing that neither of us could understand. Not that Aaron was involved in some edge-of-your-seat situation where he was running to stay alive, but knowing about the clothes he wore that morning when he died would scar me tremendously, and I never want to know the answer.
The morning of Aaron’s death, I was playing host to Alex, my visiting doctor friend from Scotland. Sitting on the foot of the guest room bed, I was talking with Alex, who was laying under the sheets. I do not remember anything we were talking about right before the call, but it must have been about our trip to Hollywood the day before. Since this was Alex’s first time to Southern California, I wanted to make sure he got to see all the good (the weather; the beaches) and the bad (grimy Hollywood; traffic galore) of where I call home. He had been staying with me for eight days when I got the call from Bob regarding Aaron. I know that recalling certain events, especially under the pressure of extreme fear, grief and confusion, can be a little bit fuzzy at best. My favorite crime shows will tell me that 60% of what a witness actually recalls seeing is muddled by a host of mental, physical and arbitrary circumstances. Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton’s fascinating detective in the Alphabet Mystery Series, has always dealt with unreliable (or surly) witnesses. But, I’m sure any real life detective will have heard a gazillion times before, but I remember the morning of September 28. My phone vibrated at 6:00 am with Bob’s picture displaying on my iPhone. It was weird to have him call me, especially that early, so I answered. “Bryan, it’s really bad. It’s really, really bad” was what he told me first. I guess I should stop for a second to mention that none of this is easy to write about. I’m a writer, and I’ve written about a ton of difficult situations. But they were always someone else’s situation. Never my own. Never about my own twin brother’s early death. Bob spoke to me for a few more minutes: Aaron was unconscious, being transported to the hospital, with Bob in tow. I called mom and dad, perpetuating that idea that calls happening after midnight but before 7:00 am are never about good news. Having mom pick up that phone in San Mateo, California, some 350 miles away from me, and telling her that Aaron might not survive this whatever the fuck happened to him, haunts my mind to this day. She hung up with me, called Bob where the doctor at the hospital told them both that my brother had died. Mom called me to tell me and I hung up and crawled into Alex’s bed.
Without a Twin Six months ago my identical twin brother, Aaron Farmer, died of a massive heart attack. We were only 40. It was a basic Wednesday morning filled with showering, teeth brushing and breakfast. As a high school math teacher, Aaron would need to leave by 6:30 a.m. in order to make it to the campus in time to start meeting with some of his students. However, by 6:15 am he was dead. I know it goes without saying that this day changed my life. September 28 now lives in with me forever like my Nancy Drew tattoo, only the tattoo is something I wanted. I’ve also found that I think of things in terms of Before Aaron and After Aaron. A before and after form of reasoning and recalling that has weirdly shaped remembrances and the future. Aaron and his partner, Bob, got their dog, Opie, four days BEFORE Aaron’s passing. Opie’s first vet appointment happened a week AFTER Aaron’s passing. It’s like two different recipe boxes, but instead of containing grandma’s top-secret formula for making red velvet cupcakes with real vanilla frostings, they are holding separate timelines. This blog will serve as that recipe box, with each entry toggling between time, memories and our adventures. Much like Pulp Fiction did with storytelling (and I can’t believe I’m even thinking about Pulp Fiction while I write this), this blog will bounce around. Have a great day, Bryan