As well as animals, and me his favourite little 'sis', Tony also loved the outdoors. That's probably why he spent many years as a landscape gardener. When I was small, he used to work for the University of Birmingham tending their colourful flower beds and mowing the grass with a tractor. I was quite proud of my brother for looking after such a big place, obviously he didn't do it all alone but knowing he was keeping something neat and tidy, and alive was quite nice. My dad would take us around the Uni for walks, and we'd play on the playing field. Once I took my red bike around there and started riding it on the grass used for rugby and cricket. Tony shouted at me to 'Get off the grass! You'll get me into trouble!' - I never rode on the grass again. Later when I attended the uni as a student, I often remembered those times when I'd played there and watched my brother cutting the grass or driving along on the tractor with traffic behind him.
I hadn't seen him since just after his 40th birthday in 2004. Mom had passed away the summer before and we couldn't find him to inform him about the death or the funeral. When he finally knocked on our door and found out what had happened, he was devastated. We saw him a few more times in that year, he got my dad to shave all his hair off instead of having a Hulk Hogan/Jack Nicholson About Schmidt look going on. My dad kept up his 'number one all over' shaved head, except now it's grown back ala Nicholson because he's been in various hospitals for most of the year and he begrudges paying the £7.50 for the hospital hairdresser to cut his hair, when he can get Tina from Headman to cut it for £3.50 (he gives her a fiver so she can keep the tip). We went to Evesham during that year to see where he lived and meet his friends in the pub. He was proud that I was the first one to go to Uni and asked for a copy of my graduation photo with Mom, it was the least I could do being as he'd been unable to say goodbye to her.
Tony often 'disappeared' for years, often resurfacing smiling and asking how we'd all been for the past few years. It was hard to catch up on so many years, but it was quite normal and we accepted that he needed his own space. Mom would always tell us stories of how Tony used to sleepwalk when he was a young adult, and one day he walked down the stairs stark naked much to the amusement of everyone in the living room. Despite the lack of contact with my parents as he got older, Tony would always show up sooner or later just to say 'Hi' and to check in.
The news of his death came as quite a shock and my dad, whose in hospital himself was very upset too. I never thought I'd be arranging my brother's funeral, but that is the way it has happened. I'm happy to have spoken to his friend Ian, who has known him for quite a few years and was like surrogate family to him. As adopted children, the whole concept of 'family' is unstable and fluid and we go through life trying very hard to find out who we are, I hope that Tony's search is now over and he can finally rest in peace.
If you knew my brother and would like to leave a tribute then you can do so at the link below: