I remember when my youngest brother Larry first started talking and wouldn’t stop; my brother Don and I would hit him in the pit of his back so as to interrupt his monologue. I was about eight years old, Don was six and Larry was almost two.
Now, I haven’t heard Larry in over 40 years and can only hope someone else is still hearing him.
You see, Larry disappeared at the age of 16 in January 1979 from New Jersey en route to the Super Bowl in Miami. But I had moved to New Mexico three years earlier, and that was the last time he spoke to me since he lived with my estranged mother then.
My family investigated back then with my father even hiring a private detective. But we had no luck, even with later investigations, including tracing his Social Security number to a gang member in East Hartford, Conn.
My parents are both long gone now and we haven’t searched much for Larry since social media became such a part of everyday life. Yeah, I checked people with our relatively common last name and his first name but with no luck.
But I had been putting Larry’s birthday up on Facebook every January 18, and in 2016, a couple of my friends (Abby Iacovo and Shawn Nielsen) convinced me to restart the search. I hit pretty quick dead ends with both law enforcement and national missing persons agencies.
My social media postings were yielding me some results as far as finding old friends of my brother. And I got some good ideas from New Jersey amateur detectives but still nothing bore any fruit.
Then, the idea hit me to write a book and bring Larry’s face to the public. It wasn’t a new idea, just one that I had put on the shelf for 30 years like my other book ideas. I’d had enough of those to fill a book.
And why not offer a major portion of the book’s profits as a donation to a missing persons agency? Or offer a reward for tips to someone who might lead me to Larry, as my friend Mike Cabber suggested?
The question (Why not?) was the answer.
But Larry’s Life Matters would be mainly a fictional book which I hope keeps the reader entertained. It would have the facts about my brother’s disappearance in the first chapter and only a sprinkling of clues after that intertwined with what my cousin Judith Kohn calls magical realism: I find the fictional Larry in 1989, after thinking I found him more than once, with some help from the spirit world. A dead relative, with some selfish motives of his own, eventually leads me to my youngest brother in an adventure that goes from the New Jersey and New York area to New Mexico and back again.
From a conversation with my other brother, who had become frustrated with my constantly thinking I’d seen Larry. This exchange from Chapter 16 comes after a few interactions with that relative: “Oh, hey Don, you won’t believe this.” My brother had called me back.
“What, you found Larry again and he had the birthmark so you’re sure it’s him now?”
“No, you’ll never get this in twenty questions. Benjamin, his last name is Epstein, is not just my guardian angel. He was our great grandfather and now is sort of a fairy godfather.”
“Did you get a hold of some crack or something stronger?”
So the book is mostly fictional other than some flashbacks which are mostly true except for things like my encounter with a Sasquatch and my arrest for murder due to some fake blood on my Halloween costume. Oh, and then there is my first girlfriend who becomes a man, which may or may not be true since we’re out of touch.
I definitely hope the book’s readers are entertained but, more so, I have an email address set up where clues to Larry’s disappearance can be submitted for a chance at the reward. But I am also inviting area nonprofits who might want to sell the book and reap their share of the profits.
And I would not exclude area merchants wanting to offer the book and possibly donate a portion of sales to a nonprofit of their choice. The book is currently being offered digitally at amazon.com thanks to Ben Steinlage, who helped me with the process. It will be available in paperback soon.
But there are a lot of other people to thank since the book uses many real names. My family and friends trusted me to use their names and not besmirch their reputations and I’m humbled by that trust, which I’m not sure I ever earned.
Luckily, my own skeletons escaped the proverbial closet many years ago. Not that the book didn’t cause me to reset some broken bones on those skeletons and, therefore, was great therapy for me.
The best therapy would be to find out what happened to my youngest brother. I will rest easier even if I find out that Larry is resting in peace.
And the real case is progressing as both Don and I gave our DNA samples to be compared first to unidentified dead people, then people who are in asylums and lastly, criminals who have their samples taken (most have not since it is dependent upon their crimes).
Don had pretty much written Larry off to suicide many years ago since it was talked about in a diary. But he was gradually drawn back into the search since I have no great expectations of finding Larry alive. At this point I’m just looking for closure. At the age of 60, this will likely be the last time I search for my youngest brother unless some clue surfaces that can’t be followed up on yet for whatever reason.
There hasn’t been a day since January 18, 1979 that I haven’t thought about Larry. I could have disappeared like Larry did very easily—in fact I ran away from New Jersey to find solace in New Mexico in 1976. But I stayed in touch, albeit sporadically.
I can only dream that Larry has found his home away from home.
Jim Goodman wrote for The Independent from 2006 to 2012. His book, Larry’s Life Matters, is available at amazon.com.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]