Goodbye to a Great Brother
This week I fully intended to write about the spectacle of the ongoing Sochi Winter Olympics. Then, a little before 9 p.m. Tuesday night last week, our house phone rang. There’s a song with a lyric that says, “We’re all only a phone call away from our knees…” This was one of those calls.
On the other end of the line was Jeri, my oldest brother Bob’s wife, calling from their home in Folsom, Calif. Jeri never calls. And oh, how I wish she hadn’t called last week. Because the news was what I knew it had to be as soon as I heard my sister-in-law’s voice. Bob had just died. He’d had some sort of massive heart attack, or aneurism, or stroke or something catastrophic while sitting and watching TV after work. The paramedics had arrived within only a few minutes and worked on him all the way to the hospital. But he was already gone. Just. Like. That.
As the oldest of four siblings, the age gap between Bob and me was large enough that I never felt the usual sibling rivalry. Sure, we disagreed about many things – especially as we both grew into adulthood. But sibling fights? I honestly can’t remember even a single one.
I was in Monte Vista Elementary School when Bob attended Crescenta Valley High. He was a strapping, physically fit, all-American guy with good looks and a crew cut that made all the girls giggle and grab their compact mirrors whenever he walked by. Back then, Bob had been into mountain climbing (the insane sport involving cliffs and carabineers!), had been an avid backpacker, was an Eagle Scout, a leader in his youth group at church and many more impressive things. Being a young boy, he was the kind of guy you wanted to grow up to be.
Years later when I was in high school and my rock band was booked by the Dept. of Parks & Recreation to play a weekend gig on Catalina Island, we couldn’t go unless we had a 21-or-older chaperone along with us. Bob volunteered and all of our parents said okay. Silly parents. All I’ll say about that weekend is that no one got arrested. Or caught. Forty-plus years later, it is still one of the fondest memories of my brother.
Born and raised here in the Crescenta Valley, Bob “escaped” our arid heat and monotonously boring seasons years ago for the cooler, wetter environs the Western Sierra Nevada foothills. He would regularly badger me about pulling up my own anchor and moving north, particularly when I’d grumble in a column about lack of rain and/or too much heat.
I already miss getting multiple emails a day from him, passing on some hilarious (often risqué or politically incorrect) emails and memes or links to funny or amazing YouTube videos that he wanted to share with me and vice versa.
Bob was also always the biggest fan (and critic!) of my writing – letting me know when he’d seen a commercial of mine or heard a particularly funny radio spot or just appreciated or disagreed with something I’d written. Of the almost 300 columns I’ve written now, Bob read and commented on every single one, good or bad. I cannot express how much that has always meant to me nor how much I will miss his opinions.
In the week since Bob’s sudden passing, I’ve caught myself countless times thinking that I don’t have my big brother any more. But I know that’s not really true. I still have wonderful, funny, cherished memories of our times together both in person and via phone calls or emails. And really, Bob isn’t gone. He’s only gone home. I can’t possibly be sad about that. I only wish he could still get emails up there.
Until we meet on the other side, dear brother, I’ll miss you every day.
Everyone else, I’ll see you ’round town.