This picture of me and my brother was one of my mother’s favorites. It was taken in September 1972, shortly after we returned from the ceremony where he received his Eagle Scout award. He had just turned fifteen, and I was sixteen-and-a-half.
That had been a long day in our home. My maternal grandmother, my favorite Nanny Winnie, was visiting. She had come to see my brother get his Eagle Scout award. But that morning she learned that her second husband had died in a motel room in Pocatello, Idaho.
Kenneth was the one who owned the beach house in Cannon Beach, Oregon, that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. He had been in Pocatello on business and passed away in his sleep. So instead of going to the Eagle Scout ceremony, my grandmother made plans to return home to Klamath Falls, Oregon.
The rest of our family attended my brother’s evening ceremony. I don’t remember anything about the awards celebration, but I do remember the time at home afterward, probably because of this photograph.
My mother received a rose bouquet as the mother of the honored scout. When we got home, my dad lined us up in various combinations in front of the living room fireplace for pictures.
At some point, my brother and I began clowning around with the bouquet. This photo was the result.
The reason it was one of my mother’s favorite pictures is that it is the only picture of my brother taken after he was about age ten in which he was smiling. A more typical photograph shows him as dour and distant from the rest of the sibling gang.
But on this evening, he and I laughed, despite the sadness in the house. Or maybe to spite the sadness.
This is the brother I grew up with, my only playmate as a small child. We started out close, but grew apart over the years.
This brother grew even more distant from the family after he left for college. By his choice, he is rarely in contact with the family. I have not seen him in thirty-seven years. I last talked to him on the phone thirty years ago this past May. He saw my parents only twice in those thirty years.
Occasional correspondence to commemorate a family death is about all the communication we receive from him—he wrote our mother after Nanny Winnie died, our father after our mother died, and me after our father died.
Today, September 7, is his birthday (though it’s not quite the anniversary of his Eagle ceremony). I am remembering happier times, even happy moments on days we dealt with death.
Happy birthday, brother, across the miles and years.