It used to take five fingers

For the last 67 years it has taken all the fingers on one hand to count my brothers. From the time I was five, I could run through their names. Fred, Ted, Frank, Karl, Ross – in order, in a flash.

I’m at a loss for how to count them now.

My oldest brother Fred – Alfred Bosworth Focke, Jr. – died on Saturday, November 25, 2017. He died peacefully, at home, with his wife Kay and daughter Julie by his side. I’m grateful it was, as far as anyone could tell, gentle and pain free. Julie told me afterward, “It was as though he quietly faded and then was gone.” He was 82.

Yet even as I absorb the news, the self underneath the sadness knows I still have five brothers. Four I can see and touch and talk with, but the fifth remains, in memory making a full hand.



  1. Dear Anne
    Thank you for sharing this. I lost my brother after 4 years of watching him deteriorate with ALS. No wife, no children to help him on his way. Four years when I was his connection,
    He didn’t complain. My father had Alsheimers. I had no time for myself. They died within 2 months of each other. He was 57, my dad was 81. Their leaving was my loss not theirs.
    I think of them, not as often as I once did but you have made me think again, you are lucky in some ways tou have other brothers, but in a way not, as you have the potential loss of more.
    Thank you for sharing, it seems that I have a brother who loved me in his way.

    1. Thank you, Marsha, for your words. It seems unlikely, somehow, but sharing our stories is helpful. Your brother was lucky to have you in his life, and your father, too, I’m sure. To lose them both in 2 months had to have left a huge hole. It’s wonderful that you still sense your brother’s love.

  2. Dear Anne,
    That was a beautiful tribute to your brother and an honoring of his continued place in your life. I have two younger sisters. You remind me of their precious place in my life. Thank you for that. May Fred Rest In Peace.

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