I was staring out my kitchen window and thinking of my younger brother. It was early fall and still hot along the Gulf Coast. Autumn was coming and we were ready for the relief.
As I stared, I thought of years ago, when my brother was fresh out of High School. He seemed to attract bad luck. He was never in trouble with the law, but he was always on the edge. Things happened to him that wouldn't happen to anyone else. I blamed it on his determination and defiance.
One day, he told me he had joined the Air Force. I thought he had acted on a whim and wouldn't last more than a few weeks of boot camp. Over twenty years later, when he retired, he proved my thoughts were wrong.
My brother's specialty in the Air Force was radar systems. I was a little amazed he took to electronics so well. I didn't even know he was interested, but it became obvious it was more than that. Over time, his expertise was sought. His recommendations of any new sytem were integral in final decisions. He would be sent to other bases, and places he couldn't talk about, to troubleshoot and repair systems. He was well respected by those he led and served.
Early in his career, while stationed in Spain, he met a wonderful women, who later became his wife and finally: a U.S. citizen. They completed each other. Good, bad or indifferent, they survived, and flourished, as a team. Her daughter became his, too, and they had a son that was a younger version of his father. I would smile when my brother told me stories of his sons defiance and determination. His son was definitely following in his father's footsteps.
After retirement, my brother continued his career. He was doing the same thing, but for a contractor. After travelling for a few years, he decided to take a job at home for a contractor that worked on the local Air Force base. Both he, and his wife, were more content with him being close and home at night. He had time to do things he never could before. He bought a Harley and spent many hours riding along the beach he loved. They built a new home to share for the rest of their lives.
As I stared out the window, I sorted my thoughts as I recounted the last few minutes. I remember my mother's call and passing the information on to my wife. My brother had crashed into a car while riding. An elderly woman had pulled out, he hit the side of her car.and was gone. I later learned it had been quick and he never suffered. I silently cried, while my wife sobbed in the other room.
The service was set for the next weekend. The long drive there gave me time to prepare for the service, but it didn't prepare me for seeing my sister-in-law. She looked so defeated. It hadn't been long since they finished their new home. She would never share it with my brother again.
The viewing was crowded. As I spoke with the people attending, I noted the large network of friends and coworkers my brother had acquired. They spoke of their admiration and sorrow. Some had to leave. It was too much.
The next day was the day we laid him to rest. After a short service at the funeral home, the procession left for the trip to church for the final service.
I can only describe the funeral procession as magnificant. It stretched for miles and included all walks of life, including friends on Harleys. A half dozen sheriff deputies escorted and kept the traffic at bay. People on the side of the road removed their hats in respect.
When we arrived at the church, the priest asked everyone to gather outside for a few minutes. As we waited, an Air Force honor guard formed next to the coffin, and honored my brother with a 21 gun salute. My heart burst with sorrow and pride. I had no idea of the respect my brother had earned.
At the service, people spoke of my brother. They recounted their memories and the goodnes of my brother. The admired his willingness to help and be part of their lives. I tried to speak, but I couldn't for long. I returned to my seat and held my wife. It all seemed to crash at that moment. He was gone forever.
The next day dawned with a change in the weather. A strong wind blew from the north and the crystal clear air was in the fifties. Summer had been broken and Autumn arrived on a beautiful clear morning. We had one stop to make before we left for home.
My older brothers, and I, went to the scene of the accident. There wasn't much to see, except the orange paint marks on the pavement. Since I knew the story, I could envision the last few moments, where my brother hit and where he landed. It was all marked on the pavement. I wondered what my brother thought at those last moments.
We laid flowers with those already there. A small cross had been placed by a friend. Again, I thought of the network my brother had acquired. I felt so proud and thought of how it all had been such a waste. It was too soon for him to go. I had too many more things to say. As we left, I realized we had closed my brother's book of life and turned to another chapter of our own.
They say time heals all wounds, which it does, but the wounds of the heart are deep. They heal, but life can tug at the scars until they ache. I can feel that now as I write, at family gatherings and when I think of my sister- in- law telling me they had scattered my brothers ashes in the Gulf of Mexico. He was now part of the beautiful emerald waters he loved. His circle of life was complete.
In Case You've Wondered
My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.
If you're here for the stories, I started another blog: scratchingforchange.blogspot.com
One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.
I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.