|Dennis Michael Flynn|
He gets his name from my late beloved brother, also Dennis, whose birthday is today.
|Dennis Harry Flynn|
Dennis was 362 days younger than me, which means I have no memories whatsoever of being alone. Even our birthdays were close enough together that it seemed like one long celebration, which we confused with Christmas (another birthday, now that I think on't.) For three days every year he would go about bragging that he was now the same age as me. Buying birthday presents was fairly easy. "We'll take two of these." There is a photograph somewhere of Dennis and I wearing identical space outfits, complete with goldfish-bowl style helmets. Another, we were both wearing superman suits.
When we were 12 or so, Pere made a classic movie in 8mm, "Around the World in 80 Frames," in which we played two spacemen -- this was before "astronaut" had been coined by people too embarrassed to say "spaceman." We piloted a space station around the world, spotting through our viewer (actually a film splicer) denizens on the earth below: Mexico, India, Japan. (In each case, the denizen was played by 3rdbro Kevin, who was a vast 5 years younger.)
Dennis and I wrote innumerable science fiction stories together, in pencil, in Spiral notebooks, with Magic Marker illustrations. Our first story was an ill-told remake of Damon Knight's "To Serve Man," which our father had told us as a bedtime story. (Another was a Bradbury story in which the Martians slaughter the visiting Earthmen after first disguising themselves as dead friends and family. Pere could sure tell a cool bedtime story. Wait, not "cool." We said "neat" or "keen" back then.)
|The proud banner of the Adventure Club|
We, along with fellow members of the Adventure Club, explored the region, making maps, naming topographical features, building campfires in the woods and cooking weenies and beans. "Going on hikes" was something kids did for fun. One time we hiked clear across Mammy Morgan's Hill and down the other side to Raubsville, then came back up via the old canal towpath.
In Pere's movies and photographs, I'm always the sober-sided one and Dennis is the cut-up. One time standing on the platform of the Jersey Central train station, Pere told us to pretend a train was coming and point to it. So I did the Indian scout hand-to-forehead, followed by a straight-arm point. Dennis, sitting on a baggage cart, jumped to his feet, danced like a monkey, and waved his arms. We were a perfect pair.
Briefly, when I was a freshman in HS and Dennis was in 8th grade, we went to different schools for a year. Then we were back together again, for a while.
It's called Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and there was in the 1960s no treatment or cure. Dennis became listless and I, not yet knowing, would tease him, trying to urge him into action. I knew he was sick, but I thought in my teenagerish way that I could get him more active. Then Mut took me aside and explained the matter, and at the end she said, "I don't think he's going to make it," and that was the only time I ever saw my mother cry.
Later, he went into the hospital and one time when we went to visit he started to hurt. His eyes rolled back and the doctors rushed in. My dad hustled me out of the room. I remember that Dennis groaned, but I don't remember that he cried.
One day shortly after I was playing street football with the gang. This is the sort of game where you go long then cut between the Chevy and the Ford to receive the pass. The Mut came to the backyard of our house and cried out in the traditional manner that I was to come home right now. This was a cry that usually went out at sunset from a dozen homes in the neighborhood. And at that moment, without a word being said, I knew that Dennis had died. I walked home, past mother and father, into the bedroom that he and I had shared all our lives, where we had created a world of intelligent dinosaurs, complete with history and languages, and I lay down on one of the beds. For the first time in my life, I was alone.
|The Stigmata Chapel at|
St. Francis Friary
In the years since I have sometimes wondered what he would have been like had he made it past sophomore year. What sort of adult would he have become; what would he have done with his life? My father has no doubts. He would have been a priest. And starting today, and for the next three days, he is the same age as me.
The only thing I have ever really wanted for Christmas is the one thing I can never have.