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In Memoriam

Thomas Oliver Morrow, Brother and Friend

Yes, his name really was Tom Morrow. A photo from my brother Tom's high school ID card from 1988 All through elementary and high school we put up with people singing that blasted song from Annie. Could have been worse. Plus, his initials spelled out his first name. I always thought that was so cool and wished Dad had done something like that with my name too. Oh well.

We didn’t have an easy childhood, by any means, but we always enjoyed one another’s company. He was never cruel to me like some older siblings can be. But he did like to tease me a bit. In the 6th grade, I won the school-wide spelling bee, followed by the district competition, and was on public television for the state finals. In my nervousness, I mixed up the letters g and j (this was even before I’d taken French lessons) when spelling a simple word. Pajamas. That evening he asked me if I was going to go put on my “PGs.” It became a family in-joke. In the summertime, we were often home alone, bored, and watching too much television. He’d come up with creative ways to torment me. But too often they backfired because I thought they were hilarious. Like when he handcuffed me to the couch, putting the key just out of my reach, turned on the Praise the Lord Network and left the room. I was giggling so much he came back in shortly to release me.

We were just on the verge of growing up when he became ill. It was the Fall of 1988. I’d recently turned 15. He was 17. We celebrated his 18th birthday in the hospital. Right after his first round of chemotherapy. Before that he’d just been coming out of his shell. He was always the shy one. We had many friends in common, and I’d been getting him to hang out more…instead of retreating to his room all the time. He’d even gotten his driver’s license, which could have really spelled trouble…but he was always very responsible. He was already a workaholic at his young age. He’d been babysitting for years, while also working as a golf caddy. When he was old enough he got a job at the local grocery store. He worked very hard and was a favorite employee. If I could only go back and tell him to enjoy himself more. To make the best of the short time he had.

I miss him terribly. Though I’d been by his side throughout his illness, keeping myself informed of his condition at all times, I always held out hope that he’d miraculously pull through. Afterward, I was in denial that he didn’t. The time immediately following his death was surreal. I kept expecting him to come downstairs for breakfast so we could have another cinnamon toast-eating contest (he always won). For a few years, it felt as though he’d just gone away to college and would be back to visit any time soon. But so many years have passed. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. He often appears in my dreams. We were very close, very much alike. I still come across books, comic books, movies, music, computer stuff, etc. that I know he would have enjoyed. I often wonder what he’d be doing with himself now. He’d be long graduated from college at this point, and perhaps have a family of his own. He loved kids, babysitting in our neighborhood more frequently, and with more patience than I did. If he were around now I know we’d watch each others’ children, and hang out together on weekends and holidays. Instead, I lost him when we were still children ourselves. But I’ll never forget him.

Here’s Tommy, shortly after birth.
a scan of my brother's baby photo from 1970

A few weeks old, hanging out with the grandparents.
a very 1970s photo showing grandparents in loud floral prints on a loud floral couch holding baby Tommy

Around his first birthday. What a cute, chubby little guy.
photo of a very chubby Tommy around his first birthday, posed, wearing overall shorts with a striped shirt

Chilling out in the Radio Flyer.
toddler Tommy wearing a hooded sweatshirt while sitting in a red Radio Flyer wagon in the backyard

Hanging out on the back steps, with the relatively new little sis.
young Tom hanging out on the back steps on his tricycle while baby Sharyn is perched on a plastic rocking horse

Trying to sit still long enough to pose with the cousins.
all four first cousins sitting outside on some steps in 1974 or 1975

We had fun playing together. He always shared his toys with me.
Tommy sharing toys with preschool aged little sis while she lunges at the photographer

Dad and Tom looking serious. Is it my imagination, or is Tom holding Dad’s police revolver? Creepy. I’ll have to inquire about that.
Dad in his police uniform posing with Tommy by the fireplace

Tom in the backyard.
Tom in the backyard, near the garage

The gang all dressed up for Happy Days/50s day (70s style) at school. Tom is in the middle.
Tom dressed up as the Fonz with neighbor kids for Happy Days day at school

Aren’t we a chipper-looking lot? “North by Northwest” it wasn’t.
Sister Sharyn, Tom, and grandma Viv posing under a reflection of Mount Rushmore

Ah, the 80s. So many fashion don’ts.
Up North at a cabin in the 80s wearing some very 80s fashions

First I had to beg him for one of his graduation photos, then pester him to write something on the back of it. He was always the comedian.
Tom's graduation photo, with 80s hair on the back of the photo he signed, with very intentional misspellings, Sheran, I are happy too bee yore bruthar. Thank y fer teeching mee ow too spel. It is verry yusfull. Luv, Tom.