Thomas Oliver Morrow, Brother and Friend
Yes, his name really was Tom Morrow. 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. Afterwards 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 liked. 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 few weeks old, hanging out with the grandparents.
Around his first birthday. What a cute, chubby little guy.
Chilling out in the Radio Flyer.
Hanging out on the back steps, with the relatively new little sis.
Trying to sit still long enough to pose with the cousins.
We had fun playing together. He always shared his toys with me.
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.
Tom in the backyard.
The gang all dressed up for Happy Days/50s day (70s style) at school. Tom is in the middle.
Aren’t we a chipper-looking lot? “North by Northwest” it wasn’t.
Ah, the 80s. So many fashion don’ts.
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.