Our mother was never home, so I think that’s what prompted my brother to make sure he’d do for me what no one had ever done for him: be funny. My brother was essentially my father figure, my best friend and my hero. This began my streak of having unhappy heroes.
His little brother time lessened more and more as we got older, but he always found time to make me laugh and to entertain me. He told me that when someone can take your mind away from your problems, even if only for a moment with laughter, it’s a gift.
What problems was he talking about? I wondered. Was he having problems with sports, girls or partying?
A few years ago, while living in Washington D.C., my brother woke up one morning and couldn’t walk. His whole body ached and his legs felt like they were asleep with a stinging feeling that wouldn’t go away. I dropped out of art school and moved to D.C. Over the next year and a half my brother and I became closer than ever.
Though seemingly calm on the outside, I knew he was hurting on the inside. Inside the plugged-in box at the hospital we found temporary relief and laughter on “Chappelle’s Show” and movies like Zoolander and The Royal Tenenbaums. The Wilson brothers and Dave Chappelle were hilarious. They were my new heroes.
No one could have predicted what would happen next to Chappelle at that time, as he abruptly left his own show filming the third season, leaving many fans wondering, why was he unhappy? Soon after he left his show, my brother left his own little square box he had been in for almost two years.
He had gained over 80 pounds, and he was also becoming both unrecognizable mentally and physically. Now using a four-foot high metal walker to help him get around, my brother had started his hard-partying ways again.
Suddenly, my unhappy hero was gone. This time I knew why he was unhappy. He was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Almost two years later I try to remain positive. Every time I watch Chappelle or a Wilson brother film it makes my worrying cease a little, as I know laughter is the best medicine. I always hope my brother is somewhere taking this medicine too.
I got a phone call in the spring from a payphone, and I heard his voice on the other end for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime; a lifetime without my favorite person. I was more frightened to hear from him than I had been not hearing from him. He said he was in rehab. He said he would stay in touch.
In the last e-mail I sent him I had asked him if he had heard about what happened to Owen Wilson. What do you suppose his problems were? Why was he unhappy?
I asked because while I neither know him nor the facts, the news really hit close to home. Before, during and after my own brother’s sickness followed by his disappearance, Owen Wilson and his brother helped make the good days better and the not so good days a little easier to deal with.
As I sit in my new small apartment I’m renting not far from Owen Wilson’s Santa Monica home, I can’t help but think of him and his brothers, as well as my own brother, as I stare at the plugged-in box.
I keep it off because I know if I turn it on tonight it couldn’t possibly bring my brother to me.
I know that tonight if I turn it on, it couldn’t possibly provide answers about my brother, Dave Chappelle or Owen Wilson. It couldn’t possibly tell me the answer to the bigger picture in my life: why my heroes were always unhappy.