Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: October 19, 2009 Archive

My Brother and My Friend

Posted at 5:15 AM on October 19, 2009 by Dale Connelly (31 Comments)

This blog is supposed to be a lighthearted conversation among a community of listeners and not specifically focused on the details of my personal life, but I'm asking for your patience as I make an exception today to introduce you to someone I loved.

My brother Lee. He died last week.

His passing was the result of a Hepatitis C infection contracted over 30 years ago - a consequence of a transfusion of tainted blood from a time long before the more stringent donation screening of today. He needed the blood because he had been attacked by one of his fellow Marines - a sad brother-in-arms doing battle with his own demons.

Sometimes tragedies have echoes that reverberate down through the years. You may be well aware that something nasty is on the way, but in between those calamitous waves there is an opportunity to do some good if you can set aside your fear and stay optimistic.

My brother did that, and more. He was a giver - always more interested in what was happening with you than in explaining himself. Asking about his health was a sure way to get him to clam up.


Here's a photo of the two of us in California in 2005. Lee is on the left.

The arm around my shoulder is a good illustration of our relationship, and the approach he took to all his friends. When he was on your side he was totally with you and would not let you down. In fact, he would stay with your cause long after you had abandoned it yourself, sometimes to the point of irritation. If you didn't want to be reminded of something you thought was a failure, too bad. That was no reason to stop talking about it. To him, your success had simply been delayed, and he had an idea for how you might turn things around. I confess I was guilty of rolling my eyes a few times at his relentlessly hopeful string of suggestions, but I would love to have some fresh advice to discuss with him now.

Lee fully embraced ideas that appealed to him and became a lover of causes.

Some of them were noble.

He was passionate about animals and volunteered countless hours at his local shelter, taking special care of stray cats and helping with a cable TV show designed to spread the word about the pleasures of adopting abandoned pets.

Other causes were quirky.

Lee became a bicycle enthusiast long before it was fashionable and chose for his flagship the lean-back recumbent frame that has the rider sitting low and upright. I think he enjoyed the weird looks he got riding the streets on that contraption. It's a common sight today, but he was one of the first recumbent riders, even in bellwether-for-every-trend southern California.

And some of his causes were downright Quixotic.

He ran for Congress as a Libertarian. He had no money, few supporters and little time to devote to the project, but still he felt the need to challenge a powerful incumbent, "B-1 Bob" Dornan, simply as a matter of principle. You can guess the outcome, but there were no regrets. I still have a Connelly for Congress bumper sticker -a cherished memento.

I will remember my brother for these things, and for his kind heart and his reckless enthusiasm.

Lee was also stubborn and rather stoic and close-mouthed when it came to his own troubles - not an unusual quality, particularly in the male of the species. I understand that completely but my brother's struggles and his untimely death have reminded me that people who are givers and helpers are often the last to complain, and some of them will never ask for assistance themselves.

I'm sure you know people like that. It may even describe you.

Please remember, it is blessed to give AND to receive.

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