Sunday, February 3, 2008

Memories of my brother ... (part two) ...

My brother, Johnny, was only 23 years old when he died. You know, if he were still alive today, he would be 64?!? I've been trying to picture what he might have looked like at 64, but have been unable to do so.

He was the baby of the family. My mother had been told that she should never try and have another child after me, but yet -- 5+ years later, there he was. He was brilliant ... absolutely brilliant!

At the time of his death, he was still a student at the University of Michigan. He had changed his major course of study at least two times. A couple of years earlier, one of his architectural renderings had been on exhibit in New York at the World's Fair.

As a young person, I recall being challenged by Johnny's wanting to play "word games" ... "younameitanytype" word games. One of his favorites was choosing a word, ANY word. Such word then chosen, each of us had "x" no. of seconds (we used one of those hourglass thingees to time ourselves) to write down as many words as we could think of using only the letters in the chosen word with no repetitions, unless the letter was actually repeated within the chosen word. Each word had to be at least three letters in length, and had to be able to found in the dictionary.

Most often, this game ended in a tie ... sometimes, Johnny even beat me! What I remember MOST, however, is the absolutely wonderful times we had. Just a ton of laughs!

The young man Johnny became was somewhat of a stranger to me. It wasn't that I didn't want to know him. It was just that I was at a very different point in my life and, while I was certainly interested in what was going on in his life, -- he was my only brother, after all -- I had my own things going on, my own problems 'to contend with', as it were.

Johnny actually came down to West Lafayette one time to visit my husband and me. Do you know how he got there? He hitch-hiked!! I kid you not. He would don a sports jacket, carry one bag and a large sign that read, "West Lafayette, Indiana" -- and within 30 minutes he had a ride to the next town on the way to his destination! It was his opinion that, if you looked dangerous or disreputable, your potential next ride would not pick you up. (He was correct, of course, but we were nervous about his hitch-hiking back. That phone call with the news, "I'm here!" was really welcome.)

Johnny was (as am I -- or at least, was!) an avid bridge player. (There's a delicious story I could share with you about one time when Johnny & I were partners in a game of duplicate bridge, but you'd really have to know something about the game to appreciate the story. That 'enticement' aside -- and, remind me sometime to tell you about it, it's scrumpdeliocious! -- we'll go back to the facts at hand.)

The night of Johnny's accident, it seems that he had driven his motorcycle over to the house of one his friends and parked it there, preparatory to having his friend drive him (& perhaps another person or two) to a bridge tournament 20-30 miles away -- Jackson? I don't remember.

Bridge tournament over, Johnny -- having arrived back at his friend's house, got on his motorcycle to return home to his apartment. Johnny's apartment was not that far away. BUT, along the way, Johnny must have looked up to see if a friend of his was home, and -- taking his eyes off the road for just an instant -- struck the back of a parked car. Johnny sailed over the top of same car and landed on his head, incurring irreversible head injuries.

I'm sorry to confirm that Johnny was not wearing his helmet. We found the helmet later, in his apartment, on a bookshelf gathering dust.

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