Dr. Joseph Hefner: My Genius of a Brother

by nicolecallihan

As a teenager, my brother had the habit of picking up roadkill and throwing it into the back of his Geo Tracker. He’d boil the skin off, bleach the bones in the sun and then paint colorful symbols on the skulls. Wa-La! Merry Christmas, mom–here’s a raccoon skull with an arrow!

While this habit may have led my Irish twin of a brother to be a serial killer, he did what few Hefners have done before, he took the high road! Yes, folks, my brother has finished his dissertation and is getting his doctorate. I like to refer to him as a craniologist. The man loves skulls; he’d be the first to reach out and rub your head at a party.

This is the brother who painted the walls of the room I’m in now; the brother who, at four, pretended he was Hulk Hogan, who, at eleven, break danced on cardboard, who, even now, can pull quarters from behind your ear and rabbits out of baseball caps, who can pluck a tune on the ukulele and catch a fly with his bare hands; the brother who loves quickly and fiercely, whose laugh is maybe my favorite sound in the world; the brother who I could ride around in a car with for years, not caring where we were going or if we ever got there.

This morning I am thinking about the red bag he used to carry on his weekend visits. He was living with our dad and Linda, and I was living with our mom, and weekends were magic because we got to be together. When he came to stay with us, Linda would safety pin an index card to the bag which stated its contents: 2 pairs underwear, 2 pairs socks, blue corduroys, yellow Mr. T t-shirt, green sweater.

Just thinking about the red bag twists my heart a little bit, makes me think of the long drive back, after we had dropped him off, how quiet the car seemed.

But, my brother, we’ve made it! We are neither killers nor druggies, lunatics nor thieves! Heck, we’re not even boring. You, for goodness sake, have a woman you love, a dog with a French name, and, come August, a piece of paper, you can proudly frame and display among your famous collection of skulls.