“The good new is my asparagus fern just died, ” typified my brothers sense of humor. It was from the same letter to my mom when he assured her not to worry because “the cast comes off next week,” referring to some never before mentioned injury. He was dry funny, and despite how different we became as adults, our little inside jokes and quirky family moments are the threads that bind. For his 40th birthday we hid 40 surprises of 40 random items. For the most part, he loved it–except maybe the 40 golf balls stowed in his suddenly, strangely heavy sleeping bag he unknowingly packed miles to his campsite. For years, yes years, we would get calls he had found another 40’s stash. Then, there was day he proudly announced he had just uncovered the final “forty” when he changed the air-filter. Ha! He miscounted; #40 is still undiscovered and some 29 years later, each time I walk past it in my sister-in-laws house, I can still enjoy a small joke shared with my too soon gone brother.
Humor and shared experiences are so much more enduring than the then seemingly all important political, religious, economic bru-ha-ha that fills the corners of our lives. That is not to say all those shared memories are golden. As I waltzed through my 60’s days, he became a young Republican. His closet was filled with realtor matched shirts and ties whereas mine had a few tie-dyed, only cotton, hand-mades. He took up fishing and hunting while I wrote checks to Greenpeace. I never did figure out why he got angry enough to drive back to Sacramento the night I insisted he stop watching some football finals to join us for the family dinner I had spent the better part of the day cooking. But, beyond the deep differences were much higher samenesses. We both knew why our grandmother’s bubble glasses are priceless treasures and that a grease pencil that sharpens by putting a string is to be hoarded. We knew why Bear Mountain was the best place–ever– for a picnic, why the mumps put a cabash on Brant Lake Visitors Day and which Mrs.Hurbst’s strudel was the best.
There are a lifetime of good, bad and even ugly “ I remember-s,” that–thank goodness–shine stronger than the last, lung cancer days I sat with him. Thinking back, I have some pretty good guesses how we became so different, but it really doesn’t matter. How we stayed the same is how I best remember Barry.