I’ve been working on my tribute to my brother at his service tomorrow, and here’s what I’ve got at this point. I still can’t recollect a specific “sweet” story. Dammit.
A and P asked me to say a few words about their father this morning. I have a heaviness in my chest that seems to ease a little with every memory shared. So I will share a few of my memories of Steve with you today.
Steve was my older brother. Three years older, although he often insisted it was two and a half. We moved around a lot as we were growing up. In fact, what I remember most about our childhood is moving vans and boxes. But no matter where we lived, we always spent our summers at the cabin on Lake Superior in Ontario, Canada. We drove from wherever we lived, be it as close as Michigan or as far as North Carolina or Texas.
This meant packing up the car with four kids and a dog, suitcases strapped to the roof of the Ford station wagon, and driving across the country. My mom often had to sit between Steve and me in the back seat of the station wagon on these trips to stop our bickering. Oh how we loved to bicker. It’s how we showed our love for one another. And we loved each other a lot. My father didn’t like to stop as we drove ten and twelve hours a day across country. Not even for bathroom breaks. But he always stopped for meals at McDonald’s. Steve loved McDonald’s orange soda. He ordered it every time, in as large a cup as he could get. Which meant that often that orange soda cup doubled as his chamber pot.
I learned on these trips that Steve had excellent long-distance vision. My parents would award an ice cream to the kid who first spotted the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. Steve almost always saw it first, which I found totally unfair. I decided he couldn’t possibly be so vigilant as to spot the bridge first so often, and that he must be fibbing. So one year, I decided to do just that. Shortly before the bridge should have come into view, I exclaimed, “I see it! I win! I get the ice cream!” Steve got the last laugh when the bridge didn’t actually come into view for two more minutes, and of course he spotted it first. It was then I decided that even if his eyesight was not that impeccable, his timing was, so he deserved the ice cream, after all.
My next story, and I had to get my mother’s permission to tell this one, happened once we arrived at the cabin. We had an outhouse, and no indoor bathroom. It was pitch black at night, often quite cold, and there were bears prowling around the woods. We slept in the upstairs loft. The girls had a chamber pot, but the boys were too manly to use it. They insisted on going out in the cold, dark night to the outhouse, or so they said. One morning, we got up early to head down the old logging roads to look for a fishing spot. When we got into the station wagon, we noticed the windshield was dirty with some sort of odd film. As it turns out, the boys had not used the outhouse, but instead had simply opened the upstairs window. A window the station wagon happened to be parked beneath.
Closer to home, Steve liked to annoy me and my girlfriends (which they knew was his way of flirting) when we were laying out by the pool. We always had a black lab, and one in particular, Nugget, liked to dive to the bottom of the deep end to fetch his conch shell. So Steve would throw it, and Nugget would do a belly flop into the pool, splashing us in the process. And of course when Nugget got out, he’d shake off on us every time. But the girls liked him anyway. Because despite his rascalness, Steve was a very, very sweet guy; and even a little bit shy.
Steve’s leaving us so young has left a terrible hole in my heart. But I will fill it up as best I can with these happy memories.