As I write this article, my late brother Danny is on my mind. His birthday is next week. If he were alive, he’d be 66 years old. I miss him.
Danny was ten years older than me, and enlisted into the Marine Corps at age seventeen. When he came home on leave we’d find three, four, and sometimes even five marines sleeping on our family room floor. My Dad worked two jobs, one of them the graveyard shift at a machine shop. As long as he was able to get his sleep he didn’t mind the houseguests.
My no-nonsense mother handled the extra bodies with grace; although in private, Danny received a stern tongue-lashing. Mom worked full-time and weekends were her time to do all the laundry, shopping, cooking and cleaning for the week. It wasn’t in her plans to entertain a house full of Marines. Her frustration went unheeded because the next weekend another group of guys would be camped out in our home.
These young men came from all parts of the country and were polite, respectful, but mostly they were appreciative of my mother’s hospitality and cooking. As quickly as the Marines landed, by late Sunday morning they’d be gone.
Sometimes, my brother would come home alone. We never knew when he’d appear, and his homecomings were always filled with surprise and excitement.
One time he came home driving a brand new Pontiac – big deal in the early 1960′s. Another time he came home with a black and white puppy. Naturally, the care of the puppy fell to my mother because Danny couldn’t take the dog back on base with him. One time, at age seven, I was being chased in our backyard by a pair of mean roosters with sharp beaks. My screams brought my brother running barefoot and shirtless wielding a hoe to scare off the vicious foul.
My brother served 20 years in the Marine Corps being deployed three times to Vietnam. He married and had two sons. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t work out.
Later in life, in his mid-fifties, Danny had a brain aneurysm that caused a massive stroke. He wasn’t expected to live. He was in a coma for six weeks. I would get up at three in the morning so that, before going to work, I could softly play his favorite western music in his ear. When he came out of the coma, he was partially paralyzed on his right side and had some memory loss and trouble speaking.
While many people might be bitter under the same circumstances, not Danny. He was always cheerful, funny and didn’t feel at all sorry for himself.
I became his primary caregiver although he was pretty well self-sufficient. Mostly, I took care of his finances. Danny was determined to be the best that he could be and took great pride in doing things for himself. He got a motorized scooter and was often seen zipping around Simi Valley, hanging out at the bowling alley or eating at his favorite restaurants.
Eventually he wanted to move to Carson City to be near his sons. I helped him find a house to rent and arranged for the move. About a year after he moved to Nevada, he suddenly developed pancreatitis. For eight weeks, he was gravely ill, and then sadly, Danny passed away. I was devastated.
One of the possessions I brought back from Danny’s house was a favorite of his – a clock that was equipped with a pendulum. When I packed it, I’d unhooked the pendulum and taped it inside the clock, then wrapped the whole thing in a towel. And yet, when I unwrapped the clock I couldn’t find the pendulum.
I searched my SUV, the towel and the clock. I couldn’t imagine what had happened to pendulum. I never did find it. Months passed. I took my vehicle to the carwash numerous times. Eventually, I decided to sell my car. At the dealership as I was about to turn the keys over to the salesman, I decided to take one more quick look to be sure I had everything out of the car.
I got in the driver’s seat and checked the center console then I twisted in my seat to look at the back seat of the SUV. There, after eight months, centered perfectly in the rear seat of my car was the pendulum for the clock.
I miss my brother, but I also know that even though I can’t see him, he’s always with me. Happy Birthday Danny. Semper Fi.