My brother decided he wanted to sing

March 14, 2010


I have this brother, Warren. He was the typical bratty younger brother who would beat me at checkers, chess, and poker. I pretty much dominated him until I was ten years old and he could not take it anymore. There are always a few memories that stand out in one’s childhood that you recall over and over again in your head and one in particular is my brother’s ability to see his weakness and fight what came natural to him.

For example, I remember Warren not being a great student. In fact, he may have been a C or D student until ninth grade. He decides one day, “I’m going to get straight A’s!” Straight A’s? Who does that? Isn’t your life preordained as a student before you make that decision? Can one really change the direction you are going? One day you are barely passing and the next your on the road to advanced learning, without an iot of preparation. How does one do Algebra if they were getting C’s and D’s? Determination, desire, and the ability to know one is not stuck in some Kafka-esque jail where the bars are three feet apart.

Warren, not only becomes an A student, he manages to take Calculus. Recalling being impressed, he amused me by announcing, “My grades are the true effects of a large cup of coffee before and during class.”  Coffee? Hmmm. Really? As my own daughter was struggling with a diagnosis of ADHD and deciding whether to take medicine to allow her to focus, I recanted the story of Warren and his will to change course. She immediately picked up on the idea that one can determine his or her own path. She’s had a cup of coffee every morning since in recognition of her Uncle Warren. The medicine? We threw it away.

Warren’s ability to take energy and apply it to a desire occurs again. This time he is 41 years old when he decides to audition for an orchestra. An orchestra? Does he play an instrument? Well, yes, he taught himself to play the guitar and piano, but not at the level to perform comfortably.

He auditions to sing with a swing band. Did he sing? Oh, yes, he’s been singing his entire life. When Warren was little, he would lay in bed with his little head moving back and forth, singing, “Mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy.” Every night he would sing this song to put himself to sleep. Did he have formal lessons? Not that anyone’s aware of. Just like Warren decided to change directions in high school, he does the same now..

We drove out to our hometown for a funeral last April. It was then I was able to listen to Warren sing on his mp3 player. The music is moving, reflective, and full of memories. My eyes filled with tears and I was choking as I tried to swallow while the song, made famous by Frank Sinatra played in the speakers. Hearing Warren sing, “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week” stunned me just as his decision to get straight A’s did.

Here he goes again. I’m so proud I could scream.

Writer Alicia Priske Cashman lives in San Diego. You can hear Warren Priske sing at myspace/warrenpriske.

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This should be required reading for people studying psychology and psychiatry.

This is awesome, Alicia. Thank you.