What My World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love…Named Shea

Posted: May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not talking about Shea Stadium, which is no longer even called Shea Stadium but has apparently been renamed CitiField. Which is fine by me, but having grown up half a mile from there and being a Mets fan from very earliest childhood, it’s still not the same and I haven’t yet been there for a game since it was renamed. I still love my Mets, though. Which many of my gay compadres don’t understand for the life of them. But I digress. The Shea to whom I refer is my brother’s daughter. My niece. My actual niece. My parents’ granddaughter. Who is two years old, and whom I only learned about recently after an old friend inevitably spilled the beans, and who even without meeting yet, I am burning with love. Allow me to elaborate, because right now I’m feeling like an adopted child who relocated their birth parents, or something at least very vaguely similar.

I should explain a few things about my brother. His name isn’t important and will not show in this article because it needn’t. He’s fifteen months older than me, was very much my parents’ little blond Crown Prince, pretty much got anything he asked them for, and even though he clearly loved me and my twin sister unconditionally, he more or less resented us for stealing his thunder when we were born. Which is fine with me; I’ve been taking care of myself and my quests for importance since I was a very small child and let very little stand in my way. But in young adulthood, he changed noticeably; he hated everybody and everything and was escaping into sub-realities any way he could, whether through Illuminati philosophy and quantum physics, or hardcore heavy metal music. Many was the night, when he and I shared a room and I had to be up for an Equity audition the next day at 6 AM, that he would set a boombox next to my ear and blast me awake at three in the morning with Def Leppard at full volume just because he found it amusing to do so. Or when he’d make me feel stupid in front of his friends because I didn’t know this or that passage by Aleister Crowley. Or when he’d bring a gang of noisy metalhead friends home in the middle of the night and start broiling steaks for everyone. None of this matters; he was my brother, I loved him, I would and will always love him.

My mother asked him to leave the home in November of 1988. The reasons why don’t need to be discussed, although it should be mentioned that shortly before that he treated my grandmother, my sainted Nana, absolutely horribly when she lay here dying in my mother’s bed and threatened to throw her out into the street with only the clothes on her back to fend for herself. From there, things went steadily downhill with him, and suffice to say that my mother kicked him out with the notion that he was twenty-one now and would be fine on his own. What I know now, from bits and pieces gathered over the years, and he’d be furious if he knew I knew all of this, is that he wasn’t fine on his own. He struggled, he starved, he shivered in dark doorways, and above it all, he hated and apparently still hates not merely my guts, but the quicksand I walk upon.

And for twenty-two years, I have implored whatever gods would listen to please give me back my brother, if he was still in there somewhere. The brother who loved cars, and talk of automotives, as much as I love theater and cabaret. The brother who could broil the tastiest steak I ever ate. The brother who was absolutely consumed with a love of CB Radio. The brother who taught me how to cook with a wok. The brother who allowed me to appreciate Zebra, the only heavy metal band I’ve ever liked. The brother who, somehow, was always so proud to come see me in a show even though he thought it unseemly. And the brother with whom I could always have a really great laugh when something struck us both as hilarious, which was often.

And then, last year, a close mutual friend of ours died of a very severe liver cancer. This was a guy I knew well, was very close with in our days at the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 8th Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village during the mid-1980s, who was probably closer to my brother than I was ever allowed to be. I thank the Lord every day that I was able to visit him at Sloan-Kettering one last time in the summer of ’10 and not only share closeness but a lot of laughs. When he passed a few months ago, it brought up a whole new and rather uncomfortable situation, because my brother and I still have a lot of mutual friends and I couldn’t imagine that my brother knew nothing about this. He certainly did know about it, as it happened, and then, as it additionally happened, somebody let it slip to me that he’s living on Long Island, has a lovely wife named Raina who is apparently absolutely terrific, and has a beautiful little daughter named Shea. My niece, as I said at the top of this article. My actual niece. My parents’ granddaughter. Who is two years old, and whom I only learned about recently after an old friend inevitably spilled the beans, and who even without meeting yet, I am burning with love. And as if none of this was enough, apparently my dad has known all about this all this time, although he claims he doesn’t, and I’m not going to push the point.

Our friend’s memorial service is on June 4th, and I am attending. Whether or not my brother will be there, I have no idea. And whether or not his wife and child will be there, I have equally no idea. Whether he and/or she and/or she will be united/reunited with me, and my doubts are high, doesn’t really matter to me. I have a niece. I have a beautiful, blonde, darling niece. My mother and father finally have a grandchild. I have a niece. My sister has a niece. I have a sister-in-law and a family-in-law. And if I knew where my brother was right now, I’d walk into his arms and have a good cry for about a half hour. And I daresay, if I knew him as well as I once did, he might do the same.

God bless my golden niece. Good night, darling Shea. And her mommy and especially her daddy.

  1. Linda Phillips says:

    Such an emotion filled story Drew. So many layers. Of course I never even knew you had a brother, much less any of this.

    I so hope that you are reunited and that you all get to be together. What a wonderful gift that would be for all of you.

    Congratulations Uncle Drew!



  2. Jeff Lee says:

    Drew, all I can say is ‘wow….’ I count myself lucky for having a good relationship with my brother and my mom; my dad, eh, not so much. There may be too much history between you and your brother to reconcile. (As a classmate of his, yes, I remember his interest in cars!) However, you and your niece — that *could* be a different story. When Shea is older, maybe as a teenager or an adult, if she’s open minded enough to see past her dad’s issues, she may want to get to know her paternal uncle (and aunt). At first so she can learn more about her father and his side of the family. But if you play it nice and avoid saying anything hurtful to her about her dad and grandparents, Shea might then want to get know you because you’re a cool uncle. Wouldn’t that be great! And who knows how much you could learn about your brother from her. Good luck at your mutual friend’s memorial service — play it cool, Drew, play it cool… — Jeff Lee from Boston

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