I learned last weekend that my step-brother passed away. He was six years younger and we’ve been ‘related’ for…damn. Fifty years. Though I have half brothers, I’m sixteen plus years older than my father’s sons, and we have few shared childhood experiences.
Ron and I haven’t been close as adults although we stayed in touch. He’s the only member of his family I’ve had anything to do with. We lived under the same roof for eight years – grew up together, had the typical sibling rivalries and arguments. There are four older step-kids, but they were adults when our parents married and most had children.
My first sight of Ron was in a sleepy neighborhood. My mom was looking at an apartment, and I cooled my heels outside. There was a large square elevated grate on the corner, about three feet high. I had climbed up to sit on it while I waited
This redheaded snot-nosed brat of six rode by on his bicycle and informed me that I had to get off of the grate.
“Because my mom told me I can’t climb on it.”
With all the twelve-year-old disdain I could muster, I told him I didn’t care what his mother said; my mom said I could. Unbeknownst to us, thus began our sibling-hood. (Our parents knew each other from work. Now I realize that his dad, who lived around the block, had told my mom about the available apartment. Hence the reason Ron was riding his bike there.)
On our initial family Christmas, he bought me my first official rock and roll album — Foghat’s Rock & Roll Outlaws. Not because he wanted me to have it, but because he thought I wouldn’t like it and give it to him. 🙂 Joke was on him; I played the hell out of that thing.
We sledded off a two-story ramp next to our house in Donnelly, Idaho…right out across the highway. (Good thing it was winter and few people drove up into the Rockies back then.) We learned to drive snow mobiles and ride inner tubes in six foot snow drifts together. During the summers, our parents took us up into the mountains and dropped us on the logging roads. We’d spend an hour hiking along until we caught up to them — talking and joking and watching the wildlife. I ate a ton of huckleberries with that redheaded brat.
The two of us explored the creek running next to our house. We waded in water up to his eight-year-old neck to reach a private little beach. Mom let us pack picnic lunches during that summer, and we’d spend the day playing in sand and clay and water.
After a couple of years in Lewiston, our family returned to the Treasure Valley. Ron and I stayed up all night together to watch the Jerry Lewis telethons, each across the hall in our own rooms, struggling on a dare to stay awake the entire time. I have no idea who lost the bet.
I grew up, became involved in a local Star Trek club and made friends in the city. Then I dragged Ron and his friend, Steve, to our nerd outings, a couple of junior high kids hanging out with adult geeks.
Ron saw the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when he was fourteen. I argued with the person selling the tickets for ten minutes — the show was rated R, and Ron and I looked NOTHING alike. Eventually the counter person accepted he was my brother and let us in.
(That’s Ron in the back row, second from the right – wearing Riff Raff’s space outfit and a cowboy hat.)
He conned me into buying him a bottle of Boone’s Farm once I reached legal age. He was fifteen. Between the two of us, he was the level-headed one. I almost botched the purchase because I was so nervous. LOL! (That’s probably why he never asked me to do it again.)
A year later I was in my first serious relationship. We moved out of state, I joined the military, and rarely returned to Idaho for more than visits. I’ve never met his wife or kids, though my mom raved about all three of them. She was really proud of how Ron and his family had turned out.
In my early thirties, I spoke with Ron on the phone. He mentioned several times that he was interested in getting to know my ‘family.’ As far as my Catholic mother was concerned, that wasn’t a topic of conversation. To this day I’ve never officially come out to Ron’s or my mother’s family, though anyone with sense can figure it out by looking at my Facebook account.
If I regret anything it’s that I didn’t take Ron up on his words back then. Maybe we would have been closer over the years. Perhaps I’d have made more of an effort to visit him when I headed into Idaho. I find it difficult to even know what that might look like now.
I saw Ron a couple of years after that phone call while I visited the ‘rents. We spent the afternoon with Mom and John, chewing the fat and enjoying the day. I’ll still always remember him as the snot-nosed brat I met when I was twelve, but this adult version was pretty awesome too.
Fly with the angels, bro. You’ve always been in my heart, even when we’ve been so far away from each other.