My brother died on Easter Sunday, felled by Parkinson's Disease. I knew that he was slipping away when I called late Sunday morning. His wife, Elladine, was at his bedside and put me on speaker phone at his ear so I could say goodbye. I asked Bob to give us a sign after he was on the other side, a rainbow or something. I should have asked for a rooster tail in the sky like the one thrown up by the hydroplane he raced. Here is Bob driving his Full House Mouse in younger, healthier times. The rooster tail is out of the photo. (The Full House Mouse now resides in a museum.)
Every year on Bob's birthday I taunted him with the reminder that he was still older than I was and always would be. I'd said that on the back of the photo card I sent him for his 73rd birthday a month ago. Bob had told Elladine that was the best part of my card. It made him laugh. While on the phone with them Easter Sunday I said "I just realized that in a few years, I won't be younger than Bob anymore." Elladine said "Well, he just wanted the last laugh."
I walked around the farm and down into our woods after the phone call, remembering my big brother, his support, his advice. One thing he told me when I was almost-an-adult sowing some wild oats was that he felt it was okay to do whatever you liked as long as you didn't hurt anyone else. But it was best not to tell your parents what you were doing if it would upset them. This was after I'd told my parents what I was doing and upset them.
Thinking of Bob, I took photos of flowering trees, wildflowers, birds and anything beautiful I could find on that beautiful Easter day. Bob had always been interested in everything and I felt like I was sharing the beauty with him...
Bleeding Hearts in the woods seemed particularly appropriate on this sad day...
The little Japanese lantern by our front walk was a gift to Mom from Bob and Elladine many years ago. After Mom and Dad were gone, Bob and Elladine told me to take it. I love it. It reminds me of Mom. Now it will remind me of Bob as well.
The first boat Bob had was one he and Dad built together, when Bob was a young teenager. Bob still had it when they sold their home in California to move to Colorado and be closer to their daughter, grandson, and Elladine's family for support as Bob's condition worsened. My brother couldn't bear to see it burned so Johnny brought it home after helping them sort and dispose of Bob's tools, boat motors, and lots of et cetera, before their move. That boat now hangs from the ceiling of Johnny's machine shed, providing more memories of my big brother... many associated with boats. As kids, we both water skied behind that boat, as well as took many fishing trips.
During my sad tour down memory lane and before I reached the creek, where I go for renewal and comfort, Elladine called with the news that Bob had died... barely two hours after I, and his son Rob from California right after my call, had said goodbye.
Down at the creek a lovely male Hooded Merganser was fast moving out of sight when I arrived. I wondered if that bird was a sign from Bob. He shared my interest and appreciation for birds.
But then a hummingbird feeding on a streamside shrub with yellow flowers (Twinberry, a native honeysuckle), caught my eye. From my perch on a log at streamside, I snapped a photo of the yellow flowers.
But as I attempted to get a photo of the fast moving hummingbird feeding on the flowers, I stood up on the log I had been sitting on, lost my balance and fell, knocking into the water the log that had been precariously balanced next to me, atop my log seat. I landed right next to the creek and almost fell forward into it with my camera, the one I bought to replace the camera I dunked in the creek last fall and ruined when I lost my balance and fell into the water. (I may be a slow learner.)
As I landed within inches of disaster, I clearly heard my brother's voice saying, "Smooth move, Ex Lax". I had not heard that phrase in years. But I heard it often as a child from my older brother, teasing me after I did something stupid. That was surely "the sign" I'd asked for, delivered Bob's way.
My brother's voice from "the other side" made me laugh. Leave it to Bob to turn even the saddest occasion into laughter. As Elladine said, he always did have to have the last laugh.
I'll miss my big brother... his wisdom and his wit.