Sunday, 26 February 2012

In Memory of my Brother, Christian Harry Bauer IV

(Venice, Italy) My brother, Chris, died on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. I loved him very, very much. He had a compassionate soul and the heart of an angel, but was born into a combustible story that stretched back to foreign lands. To carry the weight of the name of Christian Harry Bauer IV, a man must have a solid foundation. That foundation cracked upon the death of our grandmother, Dorothy Bauer, a strong, warm-hearted matriarch, (with a sister named Mae), when Chris was only four-years-old.

Grandma's grave --Where's Grandpa?
I am the oldest of five. The next three children were also girls. When my brother was born, my mother said, "Finally, he has his boy. Born on his birthday." She was not referring to my father, Christian Harry Bauer III. She was speaking about my grandfather, Christian Bauer, Jr., who was born on August 23, the same day as Chris. My grandfather was a foreman at Kearfott, a defense equipment manufacturer. My mother was his secretary. My parents met when my father came home on leave from the Air Force base in Greenville, South Carolina back in the days when there was the draft. Even though there was a difference in social class and religion, my parents married shortly thereafter, and I was born ten months later on July 27, 1955 down South on the Air Force base. For the first four and a half years of my life we lived in the same house as my paternal grandparents in Kearney, New Jersey, so I had my grandmother, Dorothy, close by to nurture me.

Family Cottages on Lake Bodin, Yulan N.Y.
Now only a memory
Ten years later, when Chris came on the scene -- after three more failed attempts at producing a male heir -- there was much jubilation: the boy who was to carry on the family name had arrived! By that time, the family had scattered -- we were now living in Pompton Lakes, NJ and my grandparents in Montreat, NC. Only my great-grandfather, the original Christian Bauer, had remained constant in his house made of bricks in Yulan, a village in Upstate New York, where we would all gather in the summer on our property on Lake Bodin. According to family lore, Great-grandpa was the illegitimate son of an important gentleman who did not recognize him. So Great-grandpa came to America from Germany and started the line again.

Four generations of Christian Bauers. Chris in Dottie's arms. I am bottom row, 1st on left
When Chris was born, we were written up in the local paper, all four generations of Christian Bauers gathered in our living room. Moving Great-grandpa down from Yulan for the photo was a feat in itself, but the enterprising Dorothy Bauer had a knack with him. Great-grandpa loved my grandmother, too.

Upper: Chris, left; Eric, right
Lower: Cat, Chris, Sharon
Though my grandparents had moved down South, they made regular sojourns up North, and we still had our summers up in Yulan, as well as great adventures in the new territory down in the South. It takes strong, noble female energy, full of love, to hold a big family together and balance all the different personalities with understanding and compassion; to nip petty battles in the bud before they escalate into outright wars. My grandmother, Dorothy Mae Bauer, was a woman with all these qualities. When she died suddenly in 1970, the heart was torn from the center of the Bauer family. I fictionalized my grandmother in my first novel, HARLEY, LIKE A PERSON. I missed her so much that I reincarnated her in HARLEY'S NINTH.

Even though I am ten years older than my brother, Chris, we spent most of his life as warm friends with a deep soul connection. There was about a six year gap in time when we not in the same location -- I moved to California, and when my parents moved there, too, I moved to New York City -- but when I went back to California in 1982, we again became close. I lived in LA; he lived about an hour south in Orange County with my parents.

Chris was seventeen; I was twenty-seven, and more than anything he wanted to be a drummer. He had taught himself how to play, and he was good. Once I brought him to a Stevie Wonder concert. We had Access-All-Areas passes, given to me by a dear friend, Charlie, who worked with Stevie. Chris and I took advantage of our passes and accessed all the areas, including backstage. Chris was thrilled. He was especially jazzed when Dennis Davis, Stevie's drummer at the time, gave Chris his drumsticks after the show.

There was only one problem. Chris had drums, but didn't have the money for the cymbals. His seventeenth birthday was coming up and all he wanted was those cymbals. Well, my parents didn't get him the cymbals; my mother got him a color TV. To say that Chris was disappointed would be an understatement. How could he be a drummer without cymbals?

I spoke to Charlie about it, and Charlie spoke to Stevie. Stevie said, "No musician should stop playing because they cannot afford their instrument." And then Stevie Wonder gave my brother one of his sets of cymbals with the name "Stevie Wonder" written right on them. I will never forget when Charlie popped the trunk on the back of his car -- I think we were in the parking lot of Gio's, a restaurant in Hollywood where we used to hang out -- and I saw those cymbals, together with the stands, from Stevie Wonder to my brother. Chris was complete! Or so it seemed.


Ironically, my mother's name is also Dorothy; I will refer to her by her nickname, Dottie, to differentiate her from my grandmother, Dorothy. Dottie never liked me much. In April 1984, my maternal grandmother died and any pretense that held our family together dissolved. At that point, Dottie revealed that she thought she had been making a big mistake when she was putting on her wedding gown because she was in love with another man. That man had contacted her upon the death of her mother, and Dottie began her affair with him again after nearly thirty years.

Suddenly, the reason behind the family dynamics began to make sense. To this day, I believe if my parents had gotten divorced at that time, both my father and my brother would be alive today. Instead, my parents renewed their vows at my sister's wedding in New Jersey. That same weekend, Chris, who had remained behind in California, had his neck mauled by a German shepherd while lying handcuffed on the ground. Police error. Mistaken identity. Chris had been unconscious, and required many stitches...

Three years later, by the spring of 1987, my father was on his death bed. He was 56, the same age I am now. A supreme effort was made, and his life was spared... that time.

My brother Chris Bauer IV as a ghost
Chris as a Ghost 
Chris ended up living with Dottie most of his life, even to the end, although many people tried help him sever that unnatural umbilical cord. He was 46-years-old; Dottie is 78-years-old. The last time I saw my brother was in 2004. After that, I pretty much cut communications with my mother, but unfortunately, Chris lived in the same house.

The last time I spoke to Chris was when he picked up the phone during a furious conversation I was having with Dottie in 2007. After she repeatedly hung up on me, I told her answering machine, "If I had a knife I would stab you," which I later amended to, "If I had a stake, I would put it through your heart" -- a ridiculous threat, since I happened to be an ocean away when I said it, and I have never used a knife as a weapon in my life. In fact, I have never used any weapon against anyone in my life except the one that is mightier than the sword: the pen. Dottie sent me an email saying she had made copies of my message and sent it to all my sisters, and was taking it to the authorities. The email ended with the threat: "You made your bed, now you must lie in it." That was the last time I spoke to my brother. Dottie changed her phone number.

Now, at the young age of 46, my brother, Chris, is dead. I cannot stop crying. I am quite sure he would still be alive if I had known he was dying. But no one in my family even told me he was ill. Not my mother, Dottie. Not my sister, Linda. Not my sister, Sharon. Not my sister, Kim. If anyone needed more proof that my family has come under a dark influence, the fact that my brother was dying and not one of them told me is evidence enough. To use my own brother's death to get revenge reveals my mother's true character. That the US State Department has used these family dynamics in an attempt to destroy my character and silence my voice is pure evil.

On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, my father's brother wrote saying that last week he had gotten an email from my sister, Kim, telling me that Chris was close to death, and that all my sisters had gathered together in Tennessee where my brother lived with my mother. My uncle thought, perhaps, that no one had told me -- even though they all have my phone number, and all have my email, and most definitely have the office phone and the cell phone number of Megan Jones of the US State Department, who most definitely has my phone number, too.

I made several frantic phone calls to two of my sisters and to their husbands, but no one answered the phone; I do not have the phone number of Kim. The number my uncle had for Dottie had been disconnected.

I went out to buy bread for dinner and started crying in the shop.

Several hours later, my uncle told me my mother had called and told him Chris had died that afternoon. I like to think that my attempts to call him had reached him through the ethers, and that he was waiting for me to know he was dying before he said good-bye.

It is a sacrilege to interfere in the relationship between a sister and a brother who is on death's bed. 

I found comfort through Facebook, communicating with friends and former classmates and people who knew Chris in better times. A friend here suggested I have a Venetian memorial service, which was celebrated Friday morning at the nun's Monastery of Clarisse by Father Lorenzo, who, if you have read my books, I fictionalized in my second novel, HARLEY'S NINTH. From HARLEY'S NINTH:

"Are we allowed to use prayers as wishes?"

Father Lorenzo looks confused. "Sorry?"

"Instead of begging for forgiveness for our sins, or remembering dead people, are we allowed to light a candle and wish for something we want in the future, as long as it's something good?"

Father Lorenzo smiles. "Absolutely. Those are the best kind of prayers, the ones that are wishes for, how do you say ...propulsion."

Well, I want to propel myself forever out of Lenape. I only wish I could tuck Lily and Bean under my arms and take them with me. Whenever I think of them alone in the house without me to protect them, it strikes a discordant chord deep inside. "Can I light two more candles?" I ask. "For my sister and my brother?"

"Ma certo. Of course."

I wrote that back in 2006. I knew then that Chris was in danger.

Venice - The Morning of Chris's Memorial
The Venetians themselves were full of compassion, with plenty of long hugs and comforting eyes. One told me, "Losing your brother is like losing a piece of your heart." Chris's Venetian "brother-in-law," Andrea, was shattered; he, too, had longed to sweep Chris out of the darkness that encompassed him and transplant him magically in Venice. I lit a candle inside the Church of Redentore in front of an understanding Mary. I made my own celebration out on San Michele, the Venetian cemetery island. I was determined not to succumb to the deep sense of betrayal that enraged me, but to take that energy and turn it into something positive and creative.

Church of Redentore
Yesterday, I danced.

Open Doors is this year's title of the Dance sector of La Biennale chaired by Paolo Baratta and directed by Ismael Ivo. Visiting instructors from all over the world work with the Arsenale della Danza company of 24 international students. Yesterday was Bollywood and Sacred Indian Dance presented by Terence Lewis. The theater was standing-room only, in addition to a hopeful crowd waiting outside in case someone departed early. Luckily, after a wait, I got inside. I had run into Ismael Ivo earlier in the week, before I knew Chris was dead, and Ismael had told me that I must come.

Terence Lewis & Arsenale della Danza
Photo: La Biennale
Ivo asked Lewis to explain a bit about Bollywood dance. Lewis said that his country is suffering so much from limited resources and corruption that the dance must be bright and bold and colorful and joyous to neutralize the negative energy. After the main presentation, Lewis taught the entire audience some simple moves. The whole place was up on its feet doing some Bollywood dance. Then the dancers grabbed people out of the audience and ushered them to the stage. I was one of them. The next thing I knew I had a red dot on my forehead representing my Third Eye. I was swept onto the stage and Ismael welcomed me and kissed me. Then we all danced! And danced! And danced! The group on the stage and the entire audience danced facing each other again and again and again.

Ismael Ivo
Photo: La Biennale
When it was over, I thanked Terence Lewis. I told him my brother had just died. He gave me a great hug. He took my hands and said, "He is in a better place." I went back into the theater to gather my things, the audience still whooping and hollering. Lewis raised his hand and made an announcement. He then repeated what I said. "Someone just told me that their brother had died. I said he was in a better place. Rest in Peace." So, there you, go Chris! We had a great dance, the entire theater, dancing in honor of you.

The last message I tried to get through to my brother was last year. I sent him "We Are the World" for his birthday on August 23, 2011 through this blog. I never knew if he heard the song, especially the part with Stevie Wonder singing with Bruce Springsteen.
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we make a better day
Just you and me.

I think he heard it. But it was not enough to save his life.

Here's another song for you, Chris. Stevie singing "Higher Ground." You had a rough life this time, bro. Rest in Peace. Come back soon. I love you very, very much.

People keep on learnin'
Soldiers keep on warrin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long

Powers keep on lyin'
While your people keep on dyin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long

I'm so darn glad he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach the highest ground

Teachers keep on teachin'
Preachers keep on preachin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long
Oh no

Lovers keep on lovin'
Believers keep on believin'
Sleepers just stop sleepin'
Cause it won't be too long
Oh no

I'm so glad that he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach my highest ground...Whew!
Till I reach my highest ground
No one's gonna bring me down
Oh no
Till I reach my highest ground
Don't you let nobody bring you down (they'll sho 'nuff try)
God is gonna show you higher ground
He's the only friend you have around


Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. My brother, Chris, died on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. I loved him very, very much. He had a compassionate soul and the heart of an angel, but was born into a combustible story that stretched back to foreign lands. To carry the weight of the name of Christian Harry Bauer IV, a man must have a solid foundation. That foundation cracked upon the death of our grandmother, Dorothy Mae Bauer, a strong, warm-hearted matriarch, when Chris was only four-years-old.