Big Sisters, Little Brothers

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Me in my “dog ears/pig tails” with Hal in front of the gardenia bush.

I have a brother. His name is Hal. He is exactly 12 months and four days younger than me. We shared a room until I was ten years old. We also shared birthday cakes. Chocolate with chocolate icing. Momma would make one big sheet cake, and decorate half for Hal and half for me. (There was nothing better than licking chocolate icing off the back of those hard, royal icing decorations. . .the kind in the cellophane pack that you have to peel off the cardboard? You’d meticulously lick the icing, then go to town crunching on all the little letters and numbers.) I spent a large majority of our childhood bossing him around. I was, after all, older than him–and born with an innate bent toward bossiness.  Really, for all accounts and purposes, we were twins separated by a year.  There were times we were sworn enemies and times we were fast friends, but we ALWAYS had each others’ backs when push came to shove–and still do.

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Easter, 1986 or 1987. Momma made my pretty dress, and Hal was sporting the skinny tie.

Obviously, Victoria has a younger brother. They are very nearly three years apart. Thad arrived just six weeks before Victoria turned three years old. The first words out of her mouth upon seeing him were, “He’s so cccccuuuuuttttteeee!!!!!! Can we keep him?” Yes, baby. We can keep him. And thankfully we had her to help us raise him. I’ve talked before about how she can get him to do pretty much anything. She is especially gifted at making him laugh so hard I fear for his safety. They are, at times, like an old married couple. And since they are young and in the middle of it and still get on each others’ nerves, they don’t know it yet, but they are best friends.

Victoria making her brother laugh.

Victoria making her brother laugh.

I also grew up in a smallish town. I went to church with a group of kids. There were some a little older and some a little younger, and a nice bunch of us that were the same age. I cannot say that our relationships were always rosy or pleasant, but there we were all together in the nursery and cradle roll and Sunday school and VBS and on the youth pew until I left for college. Our parents had grown up together–and in some instances, even our grandparents had grown up together, or at the very least been newlyweds together.

Anyway, one of this group was a girl named Missie. Missie had a younger brother named Max. At the time he seemed SO MUCH younger than us. . .and he was. About four years worth of younger, which is an eternity as children. I would go to Missie’s house sometimes to spend the night–or on a Sunday afternoon between morning service and evening service. I remember Max as a bundle of energy–a live wire–a bouncing ball of jumping and running and noise. He grew into a tall, strapping, buck of a man, married with a son of his own. Max and his 13 year old son and my brother shot guns together–pistol matches–accuracy.

I haven’t seen Missie since my kids were very small, but I have seen Max. He is what you would describe as a Good Guy. As in, “You know, that Max is a Good Guy–just a good, Good Guy.” He led singing at church and spent a lot of time with his family, and on Thursday afternoon, the plane he was in fell out of the sky just four miles short of its destination. He and the pilot and two other men who were on the plane with him all perished.  They were coming home from a business trip.

Someone wrote on a condolence page, “Max, the world cannot afford to lose men like you.” And that is the truth. At Christmas when I was home, I was walking around doing my normal “hug as many as you can before church, and get the rest after” routine. On my “after” run, midway back, near where his mom and grandparents still sit (which is where my Granny and PawPaw used to sit), I ran into Max. We spent maybe twenty seconds just acknowledging each other–glad to see the others’ face. I had to reach up to “hug his neck.” He was as solid and strong and real a human being as anyone could find. And now he is gone from this earth and is in heaven. But I don’t want him to be in heaven. I want him to be here. He is a 40 year old man with a wife and son and family who need him. It is very, very sad. It is tragic beyond measure and our hearts are broken for the people he left behind.

I told my sister yesterday (during one of our three phone calls) that I feel useless all the way over here in Texas. She said, “Well, at least you have the excuse of being 7 hours away. We all feel useless too, and we’re right here in the same town.” At least they get to take over cake and paper goods and let his loved ones see their faces. My sister understood my frustration, and call today to give me Missie’s number. I called Missie this afternoon. We talked for just a few minutes as they had gotten a call to come to a meeting for the victims’ families. I told her it was good to hear her voice. I told her how sorry I was. I told her that there were no words.

But there are words. They are few and simple and the only ones that have any power. “God, please help them.”

On the night of Max’s death, his wife told my sister, “Please, tell everyone to pray for us and don’t stop praying.” I have not stopped. I fell asleep Thursday night praying. I dreamed all night long about the family. I woke up yesterday morning already praying. I pray now as I type and hear my son laughing hysterically over something funny his sister just said to him. I know most of you who read this are my friends. And I ask you to please pray for Max’s family–especially his wife and son. Then go call your own brother or sister–and tell them a few, simple words too.

2010, July, V's b-day, LA trip 116

Hal and Me, July, 2010

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Holding the deer’s ear in Grandaddy’s “Hustler.”

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Hal 4, Me 5

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Hal 5, Me 6

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Hal 6, Me 7

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Puppies in the house–one dressed up with a Dixie Cup on its head. The back of the photo said “Tom Boy” and “Angie.” Names we’d given them.

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I am sporting a Wonder Woman nightgown and am opening my “Bionic Woman” doll.

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I think this was the trip where Momma barely slept for fear that Hal was going to roll out the back of the camper.

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Show off Daddy’s big bass.

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More bass–and a pretty good crop of corn in the garden.

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This is included, because it’s the best soft serve anywhere, and also because my brother pulled over and took the photo for me when I didn’t have my camera. He also bought my ice cream–and Diet Coke. He’s a Good Guy too.

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7 thoughts on “Big Sisters, Little Brothers

  1. I love the blue dress, the one of Victoria making Thad laugh,and all the ones of you and Hal when you were little. But I like the grown up one of you and Hal best! You can see the little boy in him.
    They had those packaged decorations when I was little also. They may still be out there somewhere!
    Praying for your friends.

  2. I am setting offshore reading this. My heart is heavy wanting to be with loved ones at this time. I have become close to Max and Alex in the past few years. While Max has gone on to a better place, Alex and Michele are still here grieving. I am praying for blessings on this family that has lost so much. Thank you Sister for love you show me and we need to go for ice cream again soon.

  3. Roxanne, that was beautiful. It will be a long haul for your friend, but because she has so many loving people supporting her, the journey won’t be as harsh. I think that perhaps God softens our sorrows by making us aware of the love that is around us right here and now, allowing us an even greater appreciation for loving family and friends, during such tragic and sad times.

    • Sandy–I thought of you and Nick as I wrote this. I remember you telling me that at the end of the day you lost Gary, you found yourself sitting in a chair in your home wondering what just happened. Thank you for always having such a tender heart and for being willing to share your personal experience to help others. You’re a good friend.

  4. I don’t know how I missed the main part of this post earlier. I scrolled through the photos and then posted a comment on the Psalms post….. And oh, how my heart feels the loss of your old friend and his family. It is so so sad…. I will add my prayers.
    Hugs to you, friend.

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