Thursday, January 24, 2008

Family Stories

My father (D) and his younger brother (M) were born 17 months apart. They shared everything growing up. And everything they didn’t share they fought over. Mostly the latter.

M was still in the baby bassinet when D was up and walking. Their mother tried to keep the bassinet with her while she was working. That day it meant M was napping in the kitchen. D was underfoot as well. What she didn’t realize was that he had gotten a hold of a long handled meat fork. Didn’t realize this until she turned around to see D blindly poking the fork over his head and into the baby bassinet.

When this story is retold D just shrugs. At first you think the shrug is to say I have no explanation, I was a toddler. But then he tells you “I always wanted to be an only child.” Instead he got a total of five siblings.

D and M were little shits to each other. They admit this.

When they were teenagers D was more outgoing than M. D would find out that M liked a girl, so D asked her out before M could get up the nerve. M would find out that D had a date and ask their father for the car for the car.

They fought. Fist fought.

D’s younger sister by ten years (S) tells the story best: D and M are going at it. They’re swingin’ and punchin’ each other. Bouncin’ into the table and off of the register. And they’re in the kitchen then out in the hall then they’re falling into the closet then out into the living room and rollin' on the carpet. And the whole time here’s Mom - little 4’9” Mom - swattin’ ‘em with a broom yellin’ at ‘em to Stop it! Ge'off'im! And here I was, just cryin’ buckets of tears. Buckets. ‘Cause I was certain one of them was gonna die. ‘Cause if they didn’t kill each other I knew Mom was gonna kill’em with the broom.

D and M would double date in this big old 1950s truck that they’d worked on. M was great with cars. He could rebuild anything. Was always great with engines and got really cranky when you started needing to plug the newer ones into computers to find out what was wrong with them. He liked old cars. And he always kept up his cars. They would double date in this big old truck sitting boy girl boy girl in the front seat. But the shifting was something else. Putting it in reverse to get down a driveway meant reaching all the way out to the right and across everyone. It got some looks.

When times got tough and he got laid off from the cement plant D asked M if he ever thought about moving away from the small town they had grown up in. “Why?” M asked. “I belong here. I know the people here. They wave to you when you drive by. You don't get that in a big city.” And he did belong there. He made a place for himself. He was always taking care of people and fixing things. He loved projects. He flipped houses back before there was a fad. Back before people knew what it meant to “flip” a house.

But the one thing I remember the best is how fiercely proud he was of his sons. You knew it – knew it – every time he mentioned them. Every time. There was just no doubt. He sat up straighter when he talked about them. Something in his eye twinkled. You knew it.

We got the call this evening.

He had made it home where he wanted to be.

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