My brother passed away last week. It came without warning and has thrown us all into some surreal timeline that we do not want to be a part of. I can’t believe that he will no longer be here to post his daily selfies of afternoon “Donnie Time”, to comment on my blog when I got a piece of family history wrong or just give me a “hard” time like brothers are supposed to. We weren’t close, close, like best friends, and we didn’t talk all the time, but we did have a bond that couldn’t be broken. Today, instead of writing about grief or loss, I choose to celebrate with some funny stories from our youth. I know my sister will share a story or two in the comments as well.
Donnie was a great brother. He was 6 years older than I am and normally the last thing an older brother wants is to have his kid sister trailing after him, but not him. He would take me to the movies on a weekend afternoon and made sure I got my popcorn, soda and Goobers. We saw “E.T.” a million times because there was nothing else out there age appropriate for me that was any good. When I was 9 and “The Muppet Movie” came out, he took me right away to see it. I am sure he would rather have been hanging out with his friends, but no, off to the movies we went, without any complaints from him.
He took the blame for me when I did stupid stuff so I wouldn’t get into trouble. In the family room of our house, we had a deer head on the wall. One day, while my parents were not home, we got into a fight, and I threw something at him. My aim was bad because I hit the deer head instead of him. Well, it fell off the wall and the tip of one of the antlers broke off. If ever there was a moment that he could finally get back at me for any other fight we had had in the past, this was it. But no, our parents came home, and he took the blame.
He was big into the band Kiss and one day I was out for the afternoon with my parents. We were living in Southern California at the time in the late 70s. We came home to find Donnie and 3 of his friends in Kiss makeup pretending to be jamming with an album. I don’t remember where they got the white makeup from, but I can tell you part of the black makeup was actually magic marker. After an evening of scrubbing, it eventually came off his face.
He had started going to a church youth group in high school through a friend of his. I was 11 at the time, but he knew I would enjoy it, so he asked me to come along. The middle school group age was 12, but he asked if I could come anyway, because I was only a month away from my birthday. He didn’t have to do this, it was totally his thing, and he could have kept it that way. But no, he knew I would love it and I did. And from there I made friends that I still have 40 years later. The only thing he didn’t like about it was I had crushes on all of his friends, LOL. But that’s okay, because all my friends had a crush on him.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about prom season. And I think I mentioned how at some point my family didn’t know where I was, only that I wasn’t with my date. (His prom, not mine) My brother started trolling neighborhoods looking for my date, who was at some party I didn’t want to go to, with a baseball bat in the back seat. I don’t know what he would have done if he found him. At the time I was driving around in the limo with other friends, not knowing any of this was going on.
He stood in line for tickets to see The Monkees, when he really wanted to see someone else, but he did it because I wanted to go. He would bring me back little things when he went on trips. I remember another time we were living in California, and he went to Knot’s Berry Farm for the day. I was bummed because I couldn’t go, I think it was a school field trip for him. He made sure he brought me home something. Can you imagine? Hanging out with his friends, but making sure to stop to pick up a souvenir for his little sister?
As he got older, he had a love for an afternoon cigar with a cocktail and some Sinatra playing in the background. He called it Donnie Time after a long day at work. He would post it daily on social media. It was one of his favorite times of day. On Thursday, after we heard the news, Neil and I decided to have a cigar and cocktail. I took selfies just the way Donnie did and posted it on his timeline. It was our Donnie Time for him. The only thing missing was Sinatra. I love Old Blue Eye’s, it was something we had in common, but it will be a long time before I can listen to the anybody from The Rat Pack again.
So, today, I don’t say goodbye to my brother, I will never be able to do that. There are too many things in this world that remind me of him, so he will be always with me. But I do say thank you. Thank you for letting your kid sister tag along with you, thank you for not ratting me out, thank you for being my brother and my friend. I think you might have been a better friend to me than I was to you and for that I am sorry. But I do love you and more than that I like you and one day we will see each other again and have a cigar and a cocktail while we listen to Sinatra.
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