Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fair Winds - Calm Seas, Bro One

My older brother was killed in a ATV roll-over accident on April 18, 2012 at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho. He has been in my thoughts almost every day since learning of his death.  He was 70 years old ... he had reconnected with his first wife and the mother of his only son (there were four wives over time) He finally retired from working for N.O.A.A. - on a ship that worked out of Kodiak, Alaska and the Bering Sea.  He made a reconnecting visit in February - visiting a dear aunt and her family in Missouri, driving down to Oklahoma to visit with our step-father. From there he came to Austin to see his youngest daughter (he had four!) and we got to visit and have dinner one evening.  He went onto North Carolina to visit another daughter and his youngest grandchild, Anna. From there he went on to Georgia (two daughters there) and finally to Florida to visit with his son. The visit was a gift to all of us, one appreciated by each of us..

My brother and I were not raised together - our parents divorced when Gary was eight and I was three years old.  Our younger brother was only a few months old at that time. Gary chose to live with our dad and naturally due to our ages (and the times 1950) we lived with our mother.  A few years later, my dad, step-mother and Gary moved to Oregon.

I would see him for a few weeks in the summer - always at my dad's home in Oregon, though. I remember only one time him visiting us (my mother, step-father, brother and half-sister) and that was right after he graduated from high school and right before he enlisted in the Navy. 
We were not close obviously, although, I did a bit of 'hero worshiping' from afar.  For reasons I do not care to go into at this time, Gary was not fond of our mother and limited his contact.  I often felt like a 'football' between my parents ... added to the mix were two step-parents and an elderly, opinionated, biased grandmother - who loved me unconditionally. I attempted talking with him about our parents several times, but he would clam up, a habit with which he became very adept.

I saw him a few times while he was in the Navy - once my mother and I visited him in Norfolk, Virginia. I could not have been more that 14 years old (although apparently I looked older) as I ordered and got a mixed drink served to me while in their company.

Another time, he came up to Los Angeles while stationed in San Diego, to visit with our cousin. My mother and I were also visiting, her sister and nephew. Gary brought one of his 'sailor' friends with him.  I chuckle now when I remember us in my cousin's pool - Gary admonishing his friend for flirting with a 14 year old girl and telling me he did not think I should be wearing a two piece bathing suit!
Gary and I truly went our separate ways as the years passed, we both married in 1965 - and both of us had sons born in 1966. Gary married four times during his lifetime and there were a few more near misses!!! I met all the wives excepting one (apparently that marriage only lasted about 30 days!) He would say in a very self depreciating manner "I'm  just too selfish to be married" and "I don't think I'm the marrying kind!"  DUH!!! 
He would have five children over those years - I think he really wanted to have a family, to have that safety net and be there for them, especially after our father died in 1981. But for reasons, only known to him and surmised by others, he did not remain married.  He became a summer dad - you know, the buddy dad - living on board his sailboat, watching movies at all hours, eating cookie dough uncooked, taking the girls to Disneyland, etc.  He didn't have to deal with sick kids during the night, going to teacher/parent conferences, growing pains, boyfriends and curfews.  He acknowledged to his children that he felt he had let them down and had caused a lot of pain over the years.  I feel his visit in February was an attempt to right some wrongs.  I pray that his children know just how much he did love each of them.
After years of being apart, in more ways than distance, my brother and I reconnected. We felt comfortable with each other, we seemed to understand each other, we joked, laughed and shared our feelings.  Because of him, I started making 'Mom's' (our step-mother's recipe) fruitcakes and giving them to family members at Christmas as she had done for years. I often baked cookies (Espresso Biscuits were his 'drug of choice') -Snickerdoodles his favorite! He used to send me a Miracle Rose each Christmas. We talked freely with each other - I preferred email, he liked the telephone! We had different memories - we agreed to disagree about our mother ... and often shared the belief some family members were actually from another planet.

He was happier than I had seen him in years in February. He loved being with his first wife, he was busy helping her with her garden, making wine, jams and his famous chocolate sauce. He seemed more at peace with himself - more open than he had ever been.  Because he was the only link to our dad (and my memories of my dad) his death felt like I was losing my dad all over again.
He used to call me from wherever he was - Alaska, California, New Hampshire, Hawaii ... Oklahoma!  He said "Ya know, you are my constant, Sis" He knew I'd always be here for him. In typical fashion, it was he who started signing his emails "Bro One" ... I was "Sis One" ... then it was shortened to Bro /Sis 1 and finally B1 and S1 ... but it was never BS! 

He would not have wanted to be incapacitated, he would have been so depressed if he were not able to be outside - either in cool, green Oregon and Washington or on the water sailing. He loved life ... he loved the water ... he loved his family .... and I loved him ...  
Rest in Peace, my brother, my friend, Fair Winds, Calm Seas ... Until we meet again ....

1 comment:

Robynn's Ravings said...

Oh, Sandy. I know I haven't been around forever - a surgery that went terribly awry - but I checked in on your daughter last night and asked about you. Wasn't sure I'd still find you on my blogroll. This post hit me so poignantly. I terribly sorry you lost your brother and you outline very well how strange and difficult these family relationships can be. I haven't seen my older brother for over 12 years, but that's a good thing because of who he is. My younger brother lives in town but I was never raised with him so we don't have a relationship. Your description of how you and your brother came to have a late-in-life relationship meant a lot to me. Your brother sounds like he faced some challenges but found happiness in his own way and returned to his first true love. I'm so terribly sorry you lost him, especially at a time when you really were close. Blessings on you and, though I see you haven't been out here for a year or so, it was still like a visit with you. Please accept my sincere condolences.