THE SIMPLE LIFE: Dearest Brother 'O Mine
On Aug. 11, just days ago, I received the saddest of phone calls. "I'm so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your brother has passed away."
I cried and cried when I got the news
Ricky (or as he preferred to be called, Oscar) was just two years younger than me - my only brother. All of us have so many memories of him, and mine have been swirling inside my brain ever since that morning phone call.
When he and I were young children, we were best buddies. He was funny and charming, and he built the best forts in the woods. He loved to catch lightning bugs, grasshoppers , praying mantis, ants - really, any kind of bugs! Mom had a Rose of Sharon bush in the front yard of our house on Carskadon Road in Keyser, and Ricky would close up the bumble bees in the flowers to hear them buzz! I remember he got stung more than once. That is why I'm terrified of bees and squeal like a little girl when one comes near (I know, I know. HOW OLD ARE YOIU, TRISH?!!)
Dad taught Ricky and me how to skip rocks across the lake, or rivers and streams, so everywhere we went, ROCKS. To this day, I still have such a love for rocks and water.
Dad also passed on his love of fishing to all of us, but Ricky loved it most of all. Me? I love to go fishing, but no way am I putting worms on the hook or touching any fish we caught!! Dad also took us to Savage many times to play and fish there, and what fun it was to cook over an open fire! Those were the best of times as children, and I have never forgotten how it felt to feel like a family.w
My brother was so sweet as a little boy, and when our sister Jenny was born, he just adored her! Ricky loved being a big brother to his pretty little sister. It sure beat having to hang around his bossy big sister Trishie all of the time!
I can remember the names of so many of his little childhood friends from school, some of them kickball teammates - Charlie Bess, Jim LeFew, Keith Lewis, Tootsie Arnold, Dobee Woy, Mike Perkins, George Wagner...just to name a few. We all played street kickball in front of our house, day after day. It didn't matter how old you were, how hot it was or who was there. Just simple fun...until high school came and kids' games fizzled out.
He also was a really good baseball player. In fact, he played on an undefeated Little League team and earned many trophies. He played baseball up to Pony League, but did lose interest to other teenage shenanigans.
Ricky tried basketball for a while too, and I can remember going to his games up at Bruce. As children, I enjoyed anything Ricky was involved with. Besides, there were always boys there LOL. Yes, it's true. Watching Eddie Murphy play basketball made the walk to the school worth it even more!
When Ricky grew to adulthood, he became a father to four children - Sherry, Dustin, Sierra and Lindsey. He loved his children very much, and told me so many times in the last six months when he and I talked.
Like all of us, he made mistakes along the way from the time he became a teenager throughout the rest of his life - some bigger mistakes than others. Costly mistakes. But, who among us has not?
In spite of all of our history over the years, I never stopped loving him. I do have so, so many regrets, and how I wish there were do-overs. I was harsh, unforgiving, stone cold for more years than I can count. I'm not proud of it, believe me. There is no way I can justify my actions. Some of it was self-preservation, and some of it was just heartbreaking, and I just did not know if I could open those deep-rooted wounds.
During our recent conversations, we were somewhat able to broach the brokenness of our lives, and begin to start some kind of healing - even if it were only on the surface. Ricky and I - we were the only two people in the whole world who shared certain things together, and it was therapeutic to be able to acknowledge life as teenagers.
I choose to remember my brother when I see a praying mantis on one of my garden flowers; I choose to remember my brother in the eyes of his beautiful grandchildren; I choose to remember my brother when the sun rises on a crisp, sunny morning - a day perfect for catchin' minnows (minnies) and headin' to a favorite fishin' hole. I choose to remember the days my brother was a little boy - innocent, ornery, full of wonder and adventure, and with dreams as big as the sky. I choose to remember the days when life was simple, ordinary - yet extraordinary in the whole scheme of life.
I want to believe that, at the moment he passed from this life, my mom cried the biggest tears of joy because her only son was now in her arms. Mom loved Ricky dearly, and never gave up on him until the day she passed. She prayed for him every day of his life. Now, she has eternity to love him.
I also want to believe that Ricky knew I loved him. I mean - really knew it. We told each other each time we talked, and I know he loved me - even with all of my flaws.
We talked often about my faith and the power of forgiveness. Ricky struggled to understand it, but was incredulous how I found power in that forgiveness. He tried to understand why I believed what I did, and how my heart was thawed and softened to forgive others of their transgressions, as well as to work on forgiving myself (which is the hardest of all). There was only one reason. God.
Our conversations were always emotional - 60 years rolled into 90 minutes each time. Those minutes passed quickly, and most of those minutes I sobbed about all of the losses in our lives...like trying to pick up shards of shattered glass. I was emotionally drained each time. But, although I will live a lifetime with some sorrow, sadness and regrets, I will never regret reconnecting with Ricky - as painful as it was.
Ricky celebrated his 61st birthday on Aug. 1, and just days later - gone - leaving a family of his ex-girlfriend and mother of his four children, sons-in-law, significant other of one daughter, grandchildren, sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts and cousins scattered over miles and miles, and some right here in the home our family built in 1969. Thus is life.
I was proud, and still am proud of the good things he did in his life and the children he created, but I never had the chance to tell him that. Correction - I never took the chance to tell him that.
We all say these words - "we never know and life is too short." My advice? Don't wait. No regrets.
God's blessings ❤