Thursday, October 15, 2009


My brother was eight years older than me. For most of our lives together, eight years seemed like a huge gap. He was bigger and stronger, but also he was more athletic, more popular, more gregarious. I admired him a lot, and envied him at least as much, but that doesn't mean we got along. He was the first person to break my nose when I was six and he was fourteen. It must have been funny, an enraged six-year old with blood and tears and snot running down his face and a laughing teenager... but I broke his nose, too and we bled into the same sink and were sort of friends for a while.

Rick did it all- sports, activities. He was the first member of our family to get a college degree (with an ROTC scholarship) and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. He flew. He was also the first to die. No, that's not true. The twins died before I was born, so they were just stories to me and tears in my mom's eyes. Rick reached adulthood, and then he died.

He had just been promoted to 1LT and assigned to the squadron he most wanted- he was going to fly F-15s. He flew his trainer through a high-tension power line. September 4th, 1981. I don't remember my relatives birthdays or when I graduated or... but I remember that date.

Doing the math in my head, he was twenty-four when he died. This morning I was thinking he was twenty-two.

I am almost twice as old as Rick ever got to be. In my head he is still the big high-schooler to my grade-school self. The bluff, hearty pilot to my shy teen self.

Twice as old as he ever had a chance to be. What would he tell me, or what would I tell him now? I have far outgrown the advice he used to give. See him now as someone who had a ton of growing to do himself. I wish I could have seen what he would have become.

There will be more moments like this, if I stay alert and my luck holds. In the not-too-distant future I will be older than my own father. That will be kind of weird. It will happen to all of us, if we are lucky and good. We will outgrow our mentors, though it may not be as clear and obvious as death.

1 comment:

  1. You're the one who told me I must have mentored myself.

    I sometimes give thought to my grandmothers and my great grandmother, each of whom influenced me somewhat (one more negatively than positively). All were strong women who outlived their husbands, not a fate I enjoy anticipating and yet a likely one.