On September 22,2014 my brother died in the small, central town of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona was where we were born, grew up, escaped from, returned to, ran away again, and for my brother, the original and only valid home town he would accept. So, when it was all said and done, my brother left Florida and moved himself, his wife, and four extraordinary children to Altoona and became permanently attached. The last time I had made my way “home,” for any length of time was when my mother was still alive. Her wish was to keep the family together and to ease her angst about the distance between us all, I relocated and lived with her for a time. When my mother died, in 1992, Altoona had little to offer me (outside of the presence of my brother and his family), and I could no longer find permanence there. My brother’s time, energy and focus were on his wife and children and rightly so. When the opportunity came for me to make a move to Virginia, I took it and started down a new path in my life. I hated being away from them, but, my brother and I had often lived in different states, and, we always remained close. In the back of my mind, I held the conviction that, in time, we would end up living near enough to each other to make regular visits, at least, a possibility. That, as it turns out, was not to be.
The relationship between my brother and I was much more than the emotional attachment that one sibling holds for another. During our junior high school years, there was a lot of distance and animosity between us. When we moved during his first year and my second of high school, we became pretty dependent on each other for support in a new school and were able to transform that distance into an alliance that strengthened as we grew older.
In 1979, my brother was serving as a corpsman in the navy and was stationed at the Naval Air Station,( NAS) in Jacksonville, Florida.
I was wanting to get away from life in a small town, and my brother was having separation anxiety, so my brother’s best friend and I left Altoona, PA and moved to Jacksonville, where we moved in with my brother and his roommates. It was during this time, that my brother and I we were able to forge the bonds of friendship and respect that stayed with us forever. Before Tim was discharged from the navy and got seriously involved with his wife to be, I wasn’t romantically involved with anyone either so we spent time hanging out with friends, partying a lot and listening to some incredible music. It was through shared music at our foundation as brother and sister was re-established and solidified. It was our mutual appreciation for a lot of the same music that gave us a common ground, a point of departure to build a connection on. As we listened to the music we enjoyed , we became aware that not all people had the same aesthetics that we did, so we were able to validate each other’s great musical sensibilities and in doing so, we became the best and most loyal of friends. We developed a genuine admiration and respect for each other and the people we had become and music was a major factor in the process.
When my brother died I was living far away from him. I did not see him before he was cremated and I could not attend his memorial. That was devastating to me, I was bereft, but it was an unavoidable circumstance. I never got to say “good-bye.” I had mentioned in a previous post (see below) that, in losing my brother, I had lost the only person who knew me and “my” story. Upon reflection, I realized that I am the only person who knows “his” story. Those that were able to attend the memorial in his honor, knew him and loved him dearly. But, they could only celebrate him in relation to their own experiences, all of which had taken place after he had left the navy, got married and had a family. There is a missing perspective in the celebration of my brother’s life. I know so many wonderful things about Tim, that they aren’t aware of because they weren’t there.
But, I was.
This page and those to follow are “my” memorial to the loving, caring, gentle, kind, intelligent, talented, wickedly funny, infinitely patient, empathetic, tolerant and truly stellar person (not to mention his great taste in music) that my brother, Timothy James Houp (that’s howp…not soup) was.
Addendum: Recently I published two posts about my brother. One was called “One True Sentence” and the other was titled “Alone With The Music, A Tribute-Part 1.” I realize that in order to include them here, where they belong I am going to have to delete them as posts and re-publish them as pages. I apologize if this results in a “double dose” to any of you.