For my brother (18 March 1948 – 10 November 2012)
When our parents brought me home from the hospital, Mike – then four-and-a-half – wanted to take me for a ride in his wagon. On being told I was too little, he retorted, “Well, what’s she any good for, anyway, if I can’t even play with her?” Later, when colic kept me screaming for hours on end, he suggested that they send me back wherever I’d come from . . .
Four-and-a-half years between Mars and Venus ensured we’d never be extremely close, but our parents’ sacrificial and unconditional love ensured that we grew into a tolerant and eventually a genuine affection, because we always knew that we belonged to a family, a bond that could be distressed and cracked, but never really broken.
Family put us together for camping trips, Christmas Eve candlelight services, regular visits to and from grandparents, birthdays, and Sunday night popcorn during Walt Disney. We decorated cookies together for Santa’s Cookie Tree, an evergreen beside our driveway which we made into a community tradition. We went to musicals every summer at the Swope Park outdoor live theatre; we learned to ice skate together on the flooded garden in the back yard and to shoot with bows behind the old barn that served as our garage. We chased fireflies on summer evenings to put in jars for nightlights and kept a pet turtle in the front yard under the sassafras tree. I loved curling up on his bedroom carpet to read the stories in his Boys’ Life magazines while he read or studied.
The 60s took their toll, and, perhaps inevitably, came the years of distress when the family structure seemed broken beyond repair. But the foundation laid in those childhood years held, and, a welder by trade, Mike chose to begin repairing the cracks, restoring love and laughter. How grateful I was to know that he was there to help – gladly and not from mere duty – when our daddy’s health began to decline and I was half the country away. How glad to know of Daddy’s delight when his son entered the room, to know that Mother had only to call and he was on his way. How refreshing to see his smile again when I was able to visit, to put up again with “baby sister” and “kiddo.” How lovely to have his children and their families in our lives now.
And how good to know that, in the end, love is indeed stronger than death. Missing him now, we are grateful to have had the years of his life framed in the unity of family.