Anchor Men

Boyleing Points
Typography

I was out on a boat with four Captain Queegs last week, though only one knew how to sail. He could boast about that but the others were his equal or worse when it came to screaming paranoia, outsized delusion, and general insanity. Of course, I’m talking about my brothers.

One of those brothers will be pleased, no matter what, because he appears in this week’s column. He says it’s the only reason to read Boyleing Points—if he’s in it or can take claim for that week’s topic. He’s often mistaken. I once wrote about George Clooney and Brad Pitt without mentioning their names and this brother bought me dinner. He mailed the column to co-workers.

Yes, I broke Rule Number One and left Rockaway on a hot, summer day. But this was an emergency meeting called to talk about last week’s column regarding genes, Alzheimer’s, and dying—topics my barrel-of-laugh brothers can’t get enough of. We decided to meet on a boat because none of us can swim. And we like the potential for doom. The bonus being, we wouldn’t ever know if we’d get Alzheimer’s if the boat flipped.  

Of course, we’re competitive, so we argued about who could doggie paddle the longest before sinking. The DNA results had been clear: Kevin, (and brothers) you are unlikely to have a unibrow but you can’t swim. Your ancestors swam like Irish potatoes stuffed with lead.

None of us were surprised by these results. We wondered if our ancestors were like us. They’d rather drown than ask for help, rather drown than die of embarrassment.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t remember that I wrote about 23andMe and how their DNA testing reveals all sorts of health traits. You can find out if you’re susceptible to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for example. I decided not to look at the results. What could you do if you found Alzheimer’s was a possibility?

The youngest brother on the three-hour tour said, “I wouldn’t have to look, I already have it.”

Catskills dialogue followed. “How could you say that?” “Say what?” “That you have Alzheimer’s.”

“When did I say that?”

In between criticizing my column and drinking beer, we talked about death. Sometimes the subjects were combined. “I almost died waiting for one of your sentences to end. How many subordinate clauses can one man take?”

How’s that for wild inappropriateness? You’re out in New York Harbor, sailing delightfully across the water, drinking a cold one and this guy’s taking shots about subordinate clauses. Jeez. Another beer, please, before a grammar fight breaks out. I’m still bristling. The guy’s a freaking dangling participle.

My oldest brother said we should all die in chronological order and the other three quickly agreed. The second oldest said we would revisit the idea after the oldest kicks.

The sailboat brother insisted he wanted a Viking funeral. He said if he goes first, he expects us to shoot flaming arrows at his death raft as it floats away. His only regret would be not witnessing how bad things will go. How we’d probably set everything on fire except his Viking raft.

And so it went as we sailed back to the marina, all of us chuckling. Smiling about the day.

As we tied the boat, I thought about those DNA results. The testing said I’d likely prefer salty to sweet and that I share DNA with thousands of 23andMe customers. But the testing didn’t state the obvious thing:  That I’m lucky. Lucky to share genes with brothers, brothers who I’m lucky to consider best friends.

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