Life's Lessons - "It's OK"
My older brother passed away October 6th, 2012 and due to issues related to ex's we were finally able to celebrate his life with a small memorial service this past Sunday, December 9th, 2012. Dealing with lawyers and estranged in-laws kept me from focusing on the life David and I shared as siblings. Dave didn't get hung up on the turns and twists that happen in life, he would say, "It's OK, sometimes things happen and we fix what we can and if we cann't we just move on."
David was a long distance truck driver. He travelled coast to coast and border to border. I often would wonder what enjoyment he got from being gone from home and living in his truck. His fascination with trucks came early in his life. Our father became a truck driver after selling a successful business in Colorado and moving our family to Chicago so I could have the best medical treatments available at the time. Our dad owned a cement company in Sterling, Colorado and he would take Dave as a toddler on the truck when he was working. There were times my mother even drove the cement trucks when the need arose. So, Dave was exposed to the bounce of a ride and noise of diesel engines very early in life. There was only thirteen months between us so I became Dave's shadow and he became my teacher of sorts. My nick name became "Me Too", however the name that stuck after the toddler years was Sissy.
One of the earliest memories I have of Dave is his little pedal car. I never got to drive and would have to ride as a passenger in a very tight and limited space. He did do his best to let me squeeze in, let me ride atop the trunk of the car with my feet resting on the seat next to him or he would tie the wagon to the back and I got to ride in the trailer. I always played on his terms, he was older and wiser. We were always traveling up and down the sidewalk, or he would play tinkering with the engine. We would play with the water hose and wash his car and my wagon and pretend to fuel the car. Then one day we parked his car next to the family car in the drive and went to have lunch. After lunch was nap time and we had fueled the car so it would be ready when we were allowed back outside. But, I also fueled the family car with the same water hose so it would be ready for our daddy to return to work. Well, needless to say we were sent to bed and our father was unable to return to work that day. Dave assured me daddy could fix anything and it would be OK.
Car maintenance is important and pretend gas only goes in pretend cars.
David's leadership wasn't always the best leadership to follow but I didn't think twice about it at nine years of age. Maybe, he wanted me to follow so I wouldn't be a tattle tale for this learning experience. Who knows for sure. We were now living in Chicago and shared the same friends on the block and by this time we also had a younger brother, Larry. So, we were ten, nine and seven years of age. I was still a tag-a-long and now known by Sissy by family, neighbors and friends. One of David's closest friends was Johnny who lived across the alley from us. He and Dave remained close friends and was my first crush. But, that's not Dave's story nor was it to his liking. Dave and Johnny taught Larry and me how to smoke. We could only smoke in Johnny's garage because ours was only a one car garage that housed a boat my father was refinishing. Smart move on their part not to use the garage with the hazardous chemicals. However, I think it really was that Johnny's garage was empty during the day. Well, our mother found us smoking and we were kept on pins and needles regarding our punishment until our father returned from one of his long hauls. We came home from school one day to find our father home and waiting with three big cigars and the 8mm movie camera. We each had a cigar to smoke and he was making a movie to send to our grandparents back in Colorado so they could see just how grown up we had become. Larry was the only one not to get sick and actually looked like he enjoyed a good smoke. That was Larry, he had a good time at doing anything. Dave turned green and I cried. That fixed our smoking for at least another ten or so years.
Second Lesson Learned:
Big brothers sometimes can lead you down the wrong path, so learn to make your own decisions and move on.
David always did love to drive. When we moved from Chicago to an acre track in Indiana he would love to drive the tractor. Sometimes when the chores were done or maybe not, he would have tractor races with the boys who lived the next field over. He would back the car out of the garage or turn it around for our mom every chance he got. But, when there was no excuse to drive he found other ways to keep busy. He tied Larry to the roan cow and swatted the hind quarters with a milk weed plant to make it run and continued to do so every time he got near. The next day, dad called the vet because the roan "went down". The vet could do nothing and the roan died. It was in our adult years Dave confessed that Larry rode the roan to death.
I still followed Dave around but by this time he was more annoyed to have his sister tagging along. We were always reminded by our mother to "play nice together" or she would have household chores we could do or we could use extra practicing time with our music lessons. So, begrudgingly I was allowed to follow them at an appropriate distance or I was the object of their fun. I remember sitting on the ground one afternoon, with Dave, Larry and the boys from the next farm standing over me telling me, "you'll be alright just take a deep breath and don't tell mom. You will be fine." What they didn't want me to tell was that I had received an electric jolt strong enough to keep the cows off the road. They had shown me how safe the electric fence was as they each took hold and felt no shock. Kenny held onto the fence, while Larry and Dave joined hands with Kenny. Dave then extended his hand to me. What I didn't know was that they were standing on a wooden plank, and I was the only one standing in the wet grass.
Third Lesson Learned:
Extra practice on the piano and/or saxaphone has some benefits.
When we were teenagers, Dave did have moments when he was very tolerate of my being around especially if my girlfriends were present. When Dave turned sixteen he was given a convertible with the condition that he follow all the rules of the road and understand he was to help our mother by running errands and transporting us to and from school when needed. Well, Dave didn't always follow the rules of the road but he was always willing to drive us around. Before I even had a permit to drive, he offered to let me drive to school once we were around the corner of our block. It was only about three miles to school so we both were confident it would be fine. We made it safely to within a quarter mile of school and then our trip was interrupted. We were behind my history teacher when he came to a stop at a stoplight and I did not. As Dave was picking up the chrome bumper from the street and placing it in the car he just kept saying, " It's ok, sissy. This can be fixed. It's ok." Well, things did get fixed. I was enrolled in drivers ed within the week and my history grade did not suffer. David's convertible did sit in the driveway for over a month and the repairs were all his to pay.
Fourth Lesson Learned:
Remember all previous lessons.
Dave was forced to give up driving and sell his cab due to severe lung condition (years of smoking had finally taken its toll). He was waiting for a double lung transplant when during one of his final testing and maintenance treatments they discovered liver cancer. He was not a candidate for chemo or radiation due to his lung condition. Larry, our sister, our dad and I made a trip to see Dave not knowing this would be last time we would see him. Within the next week, Dave became so weak and this cancer was most aggressive he lost his fight for life. When we were saying good-bye and making plans to return the next weekend with needed medical equipment, Dave wrapped the prayer shawl my daughter made for him around his shoulders and expressed his graditude for the blessings woven into the shawl. As I bent to give him a kiss good-bye he whispered, "It'll be ok, Sissy. Our Father can fix anything and sometimes that means we just move on."
Life's Final Lesson
Our siblings can be our source for inspiration and learning. They may sometimes lead us down the wrong path. Their direction is not always the straight and narrow. My big brother took a ride in life that we shared off and on thoughout the years. This final lesson shared was knowing that our Heavenly Father patched his road many times so he could move on knowing it would be OK. That's a lesson for "Me Too".