Keith (my second father)


It is really hard to keep from mythologizing Keith, my oldest brother. For me, as I was growing up, he was larger than life, my own rugged, cowboy, explorer, scientist, tough guy, hero. He was full of life, and bravado. You definitely knew when Keith was in the room. He had the bearing of a King (no surprise, since the Queen was his mother). He was my role model for what being a ‘real’ man was. You stood up for yourself, you were never ashamed of who you were, no matter how poor you might be, or how you look, or how intelligent or unintelligent you might be, Of course, from his point of view, if you were a Miller, you weren’t really poor, you looked great, and were very intelligent. Keith was the great story teller, he wove the web of the family mythology, bringing to life our ancestors, tracing our line back to Charlemagne and possibly even King Arthur. He puzzled over all of life’s mysteries, and would talk endlessly into the night (with his brother David, primarily), about every unanswered question the universe could offer. I think he relished the questions more than the answers. After all, if you arrive at a conclusion, what is there to talk about?, and the talking is the thing. Exploring all things visible and invisible, nothing escaped Keith’s gaze. He loved nature, and spent all his life immersed in it. He became a very accomplished bird watcher, and cave explorer. I can recall the map of Missouri with all the pens, showing the caves he had explored. That map was covered in pens. He lived and breathed an easy sexuality, which was a vital part of his being. He rejoiced in being a man, and all of the glorious funky, horny, smelly, rich and earthy feelings that entailed. He sprang from out of the bosom of Nature, and this was truly his God. He was vain. But then, let’s face it, he had reasons. He was a pretty awesome character. When I was a kid, he reminded me of Clark Gable. He was ruggedly handsome, and I felt a little intimidated, given I was this skinny, bespectacled kid who couldn’t even tie his shoe correctly.

Keith suffered greatly throughout his life, and I stood in silent sadness, observing many of those times. Just a kid. It made me fearful of what being a man meant. It meant loving fiercely with all of your soul, only to have that love casually crushed and tossed aside. I knew how much Keith suffered because Keith wasn’t shy about expressing his feelings. When he hurt, he enveloped the world in his dark brood. He was a lot like my mother, and everyone commented on that fact. But unlike Mom, Keith became a much more compassionate, forgiving, monarch. At least, that was my experience. I suspect others might disagree. But he became my second Dad, especially after my first Dad died. He loved me completely, without reservation, or critical comment. It was a gift, for which I am still grateful. But it wasn’t always that way. In his younger days, he was a roiling mass of emotion, filled with tenderness, tempered by a vicious temper which could explode at any moment. You had to develop a little list of all the subjects that were off limits with Keith. It was a lot like navigating a mine field. I lost a few limbs before I got it down. Of course, given that I grew into an obnoxious, mouthy teenager, Keith and I were bound to collide. I remember one time when I was obnoxiously correcting his pronuciation of words. He always prided himself on his erudition, so this was a sore point. Finally, he exploded. “You had better get away from me right now!: And I did. I would kind of peek out at him from a comfortable distance for quite some time after that, sort of like a cat that has been kicked. I learned that the best way to approach Keith was to give Keith the opportunity to claim your idea as his own. If he could appear to be in control of the conversation, he was happy. He changed greatly over the years and was not as vain and insecure as in his earlier years. He knew he had a macho heroic image to uphold and he went through some unnecessary emotional outbursts to maintain that image. Later, he was much more willing to be vulnerable, and much more open about himself. He no longer felt the need to preen his feathers. But Keith was always a very sensitive soul. Other people you could disagree with, sometimes rather violently, without hurting the other person’s feelings, but with Keith a disagreement could often be taken as a personal insult. I had some wonderful times with Keith, long talks lasting all night long. Even when I was at my lowest ebb, Keith refused to tear my self-esteem apart still further. It seems to me that he always looked for ways to build me up, rather than tear me down. We were good friends. I had the feeling that even if he had not been my brother, we would have loved each other, and had the same long talks. We just liked each other!

I can’t even begin to express how much grief I still feel over Keith’s death. My life pretty much fell apart after he died. It left me determined not to experience the funerals of any more brothers. His ghost still….(I can’t say ‘haunts’) lingers peacefully nearby. Just letting me know he’s there.  What a man!! I am proud to say he was my second father. I miss him.

5 responses »

  1. Thank u so much 4 the post….I think dad was a second father 2 a lot of people…he was a great man and teacher…I struggle 2 know how 2 keep hbim ali8ve n my life and with my son…Bryce has lost both his grandpas my fathernlaw passed last year only a few days after the anv of dads death….I do feel dad still walks next 2 me each day…and many days he helps carry me along…larger then life and loved my all he touched…I hope my son will be like him

  2. Thanks again Russell, and don’t worry about offending, as if you did. I think you hit the nail on the head with dad. I miss him dearly.

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