By Tim Lemke
Jonathan Kuiper still talks to his twin brother. The conversations aren’t usually very long, but they are comforting.
“Whenever he pops in—usually in a dream—that’s good enough. It’s better than nothing,” said Kuiper, a former Crofton resident whose family still lives in the area.
Jonathan Kuiper’s brother, Stephen, died in a car accident in April of 2005. Eight years later, Kuiper has published a novel, Running With Vince, that explores the relationship between the two brothers, and his own reaction to the death. More broadly, it’s an examination of the often complex relationship between siblings, and the way in which we grieve.
“You can like your sibling, but you don’t necessarily have to like what they are doing,” he said. “For Stephen and myself, we were fine at times, but there were these other times where it’s like we’re family, but two guys you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be friends.”
Running With Vince follows the story of Chris and his brother Vince as they travel from New England to Maryland for a family event. The two clash in brotherly fashion but there are moments where the bond between the two is clear. The final third of the book explores that relationship even after one of them has passed on.
Kuiper modeled the character Chris after himself, and said Vince resembles his brother, a outgoing and loving man who also battled addiction. Stephen Kuiper died when his fiancee was expecting their first child.
“I was sad when he died, but similar to the character in the book, it was a relief. He was on a destructive path,” Kuiper said. “For me, it was OK knowing that my mom didn’t have to wait up in the middle of the night wondering if he was going to come home.”
Of course, this feeling of relief led to a complicated grieving process that is still ongoing.
“You have different situations, where you feel pretty good, but then you go home see a photograph and you’re back to square one,” he said. “The process never ends.”
Kuiper lived in Madison from Fall 2006 through the summer of 2007. He taught at the Grove School and lived in one of the dorms. From June 2012 to December 2012 he was living in East Haddam for a different teaching assignment and would make it a point to get over to Madison a couple times of month. He now teaches mathematics at a boarding school in Virginia.
He said he began writing Running With Vince years ago, but often found himself unable to get words to paper. But over time, he felt a connection to his brother that allowed scenes to flow.
“It’s more his story than my story,” Kuiper said. “And when I was writing it, I felt like he was there giving me the dialogue, and we were going back the forth. I was just a vessel, if you will.”
The book, Kuiper said, has allowed him to come to terms with Stephen’s death in a positive way.
“I have a twin, he’s no longer here, and we were able to travel with each other for the first 25 years of our lives at the same time. And I’m grateful for that.”