I started with six brothers. I’m down to three now. Three have passed on and all were sudden deaths without a chance to say goodbye.
My family is a blended one. My dad had one boy and my mom had three when they married. I’m the actual first child of my parent’s union. Two boys followed me. I’d like to say that I had the perfect secure childhood, but I didn’t. My parents flittered job to job which means we moved more times than children should have to. I was always the ‘new kid’ at school. The gaps in our education from moving school to school took their toll on us. I was the only child out of the seven that actually finished high school with a degree and graduated from college.
My brothers are all extremely hard-working, wonderfully smart, and full of common sense. My parents made sure we all had a good work ethic. It’s the only way we could survive in a household of our size. We all had chore lists to do or if our parents were running a theater, then we’d be the janitorial staff, work the concession stand, and could run the projector. Our parents both worked, which means we took care of each other a lot. There never was enough money to go around for bills and food. My parents did the best they could.
I’m looking backward as an adult and making speculations because as a kid, I never knew that. We were mostly a happy lot. We played and fought. Sometimes the fighting got physical and punches flew or pushing happened. I remember once throwing a toy at my younger brother, Johnny. He had that small scar on his eyebrow for the rest of his life. You should have seen us piled up in our station wagon. I’m sure we were a sight, filling every seat and hanging out the windows when the car stopped!
I remember the good times. Running around the neighborhood and playing in the woods, swinging on grapevine. We’d play cowboys and indians or cops and robbers chasing each other and shooting each other with sticks. Johnny was the one I remember playing with the most. I can’t count the number of times, we’d play with those small plastic horses: galloping them on the floor and making neighing sounds. As my brothers matured and drivers licenses happened, I remember riding with Paul and doing donuts in parking lots. Timmy giving me a ride on the back of the motorcycle. That happened just once because Mom was furious with him for taking me for a ride.
Sitting around the table at dinner and the boistious noise that ensued as bowls were passed and all were straining to be heard as we talked over one another. Cleaning the kitchen was always done in pairs or in threes. No one ever had to clean the kitchen by themselves. These are the memories that make me smile.
Steven, the oldest, left the house when I was about ten. My dad signed for him to join the Marines when he was seventeen because he seemed to always be running away when I was a child. That decision changed Steven’s life. He was a career Marine, staying twenty-eight years before retiring from the corp. Steve would stop back in the family while on leave and I remember small gaps of time with him as I grew up. The last was when I was a junior in high school. After that, meetings were brief. He always called me “Sis” never Becky. I loved that he thought I was special.
David is the baby. Enough said. I think he got away with the most. He’d say that wasn’t so, but I’d have to disagree. I don’t remember him having to do many chores. As an adult, David is precious. He is generous to a fault and has a wonderful sense of humor. I love his deep laugh and his love for his family.
Between those two, we have Timmy, Paul, Mike, Me, and Johnny. The boys used to accuse me of being spoiled. Maybe it was so, but I don’t believe I took advantage of it. There has to be a perk to growing up in a household full of boys.
I don’t have much to say about Timmy and Mike. I have to say I don’t like all my brothers. Love, yes, love is there. Some people are hard to connect with and the thought comes to mind, “How can I be related to that person?” Simply personality differences. Thankfully, the connection happens in a large group and we are a large family.
Johnny, one below me on the ladder of our family, was one of my favorite playmates as a child. We shared a room when we were young and would hide under the covers when we were afraid of the dark. We’d play horses and army men. Later, we were coconspirators. We’d roll our eyes at our grandparents when they made silly comments. He liked to tease. When he hit about fifteen, the girls started to find him attractive. He had the biggest ego. I used to say, when he passed a mirror, he’d stop and say, “Damn, I look good.” He left to join the Army not long after I married. He was gone for long stretches of time and I missed seeing him mature. When he did come back as an adult, he loved to cook. He was the adventous brother.
Paul is the glue that holds us together. He’s the humorist. Need to calm a situation? Humor is the best way to bring it back to normal and he’s good at it. He doesn’t mind being silly and making us laugh until our tummy hurts. He’s smart and can figure out how to fix a problem. He is the hardest working brother I have. He always has things to do. His legacy is all the people named after him. I don’t know how he did it, but there are so many of his kids and grandkids named after him that I tease him that the world doesn’t need any more ‘Pauls.’ He says, “Oh, no! There’s always room for another Paul.” He truly is our rock and I love him deeply.
Now there are three gone. Timmy died of a heart attack. Johnny died while scuba diving. His offical cause of death was drowning. This week, Steven, died of a heart attack.
My mind drifts back when for a brief time we were young and all lived in the same home. That ended about forty-four years ago when Steven left and slowly, over time, we all moved away from one another. It was rare when we were all together at the same place. There are a few pictures with us together.
When Timmy died, we took a picture of us together after the funeral. It’s become a tradition to do that after funerals. Today, there were three of us. Yes, there should be four and Mike is missing out of the picture and I don’t forsee him ever joining us.
So today, David, me, and Paul, took a picture and we smiled and laughed because we know how precious our time is together.
With love, to my remaining brothers.