Robert T. Callan, a heart throb at 66

My brother Robert was always good looking, as a baby, as a little kid, as a high school kid,and especially in his 40s, 50s, and 60s. He can walk in a room and create a spell, like he’s George Clooney with pale brown-blonde hair and flashing smile and slim boyish body, always clothed in something tres au courant.

I remember the one time I had a short story published in a crime anthology. At the signing party, all fifteen authors there, the bookstore bursting with people, Robert breezed in and mesmerized the crowd. As if he was the star author. Afterwards people asked who he was and I said, “my brother,” and no one seemed to believe me.

He’s now 66, and was over for dinner the other night, and the battle to remain young is still being waged and won. He has his hair not only colored by highlighted, and though it’s grown thin, he wears it down over his forehead in sparse bangs that blow in the wind. He used to get it permed but he’s had to give that up. His wrist sports a solid gold bracelet, carved, his ring finger a gorgeous star sapphire. Neither he nor his youthful second wife wear boring flashy diamonds. She has two sapphire rings; one blue ringed in diamonds like Princess Di, and the other a shocking pink bubblegum sapphire. Robert’s is a star sapphire and set in gold. He favors gold and owns several bricks of it in some vault somewhere. Plus he is a member of THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT, a former cult run by Elizabeth Claire Prophet but still hanging on under new leadership. As an elder or deacon, Robert attends conferences in Chicago every Thanksgiving, which I hate because I host the holiday and he’s fun and can never come. He even owns a bomb shelter in Montana formerly stocked with five year’s worth of toothpaste and contact solution etc. etc. It’s something he never talks about. If the bomb drops how would he get there before dying of radiation? He had a bomb shelter in his last house, lined with lead and well stocked, but that was when he made $400,000 a year, pre-divorce from J______, when my father was still alive and the family business was owned by my other brother, Mike, but its largesse extended to Robert. Daughters are not part of that. The patriarchy flourishes in the Callan family.

So, early this summer when he was over for dinner on Memorial Day with his wife, equally thin and attractive, he wore his usual pastel plaid button down shirt with a complimentary sweater and nice fitting pants, cool shoes, not the usual bright orange leather, but kickier tie shoes like you’d see on a twenty something in a Macy’s circular. His hair has grown wispy but his body remains boyishly thin as ever, though he comes to dinner and you’d think he’d been denied food for weeks. My one hundred and thirty five pound (if that) brother eats like there is no tomorrow, because at home it will be dinners of one thing, not five. At my Memorial Day barbecue, I made a sheet of homemade chocolate chip cookies at the last minute and he gobbled four, then asked for two more to take home, which I put in a plastic bag like our grandmother used to do. She always added mini marshmallows.

Robert changed his name from Bob to Robert while he was dating after his divorce from his first wife probably eight years ago now, who knows. Ex wife J_____ lives in San Francisco dyes her dry long hair a blackish color and wears skirts up to her neck to show off her great legs and has had plenty of botox so her smile includes only the bottom half of her face.

My two other siblings refused to change what they called him after a lifetime, but I did, and now I can hardly say Bob. He hates the name Bob and said publicly that my parents misnamed him; he should have been named Joubert, or Gilbert (pronounce the French way), not sure which. .

When he walks in the door for one of my dinners, he always brings a good bottle of champagne because that’s what he likes. Everyone else has to drink it too, and then he starts making toasts and the toasts escalate and everyone overdoes it and he steals the evening and it’s so fun. Fun. Plus he’s done all sorts of professional analysis of our parents’ shortcomings that messed him up psychologically, so he likes to discuss the past. And also to analyze his only daughter and her husband, an interest shared by his wife who’s a psyche nurse and loves to analyze her own family, which I love too, since I’m a writer, so it goes on and on. My husband isn’t that fond of it. Poor Curt., but he has fun too telling us about growing up on the farm and pushing over outhouses on Halloween.

At our last dinner, I told Robert he had long telomeres and would live a long life. We’ll see.

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