Monday, December 10, 2012
MY BROTHER BODE
I can't imagine having a better older brother than my brother Bode. He was the role model for the rest of us and no matter how the rest of us feel about each other, we all feel the same way about him. He always treated us as peers and never as "kids". He was thirteen years older and when I look back, I wonder why he and I were so close, not only because of the age difference, but also because we disagreed on nearly everything: politics, literature, music, art, and philosophy. I now realize it is because he allowed it. Politically, the rest of us always say he was to the right of Attilla the Hun. He was an unrepentent atheist. Of course he had faults and he was a mass of contradictions. He was loyal and judgmental, he was tactless and kind, acerbic, brutally honest, with an unwavering certitude that he was right about everything and he didn't suffer fools gladly. He loved the rest of us unconditionally.
He was also the most loyal and generous person in our lives. How could someone so generous be--oh what's the word--oh, I know--CHEAP! Even though he was an atheist, he went along with his family's desire for Christmas. He couldn't understand using wrapping paper ("What a waste of money!") and much to his wife and children's chagrin, every Christmas, presents would be wrapped in the comic sheets from the Sunday newspapers (yes, he saved comic strips all year long). If he wanted to talk to me, rather than paying for a long-distance call, he would call, ask a question (e.g. "Walt Disney's middle name?") and then quickly hang up, because he knew that I would call him back, just to show-off, that I knew the answer and he'd made me pay for the phone call!
We spent twenty years going to Florida to visit with him and his family at Christmas. The unrepentent atheist had the greatest time at Christmas. He always told the story that our own father would go out on Christmas Eve, shoot the shotgun, and come back in and say that Santa had committed suicide. Of course it wasn't true, and when he would tell the story, he was so believable, that someone would invariably ask, "Really--your father did that?" Bode once produced a scavenger hunt for the Christmas presents and after my husband had gone all over Pensacola looking for clues, the last slip of paper directed him to return to Ohio where Bode had hidden his present earlier in the year.
While there we would always go to his favorite Mexican restaurant. Bode and I would sing together at the drop of a hat. We walked into the Mexican restaurant and what was playing but Bing Crosby singing "When It's Christmas In Killarney". Not a word was spoken between us, but we immediately joined arms and began singing along at the top of our lungs. The rest of the family (my mother, husband, sister-in-law,niece and nephew) slunk away in embarrassment. As Bode and I literally waltzed to the table, he said, "I can't believe they don't understand the exquisite irony of "Christmas In Killarney" in a Mexican restaurant!"
One time, when I was a teenager, during the summer, we were in his old Chevrolet station wagon with no air conditioning and we were playing my mother's song-game. [my mother's song game: start to sing a song and end on a word; the other player must start another song with a song with that sameword in it, but if the person stops on a word and he doesn't also have another song with the word in it, and if he's challenged, then he's penalized] Unlike most of us, Bode would not stop the song quickly but would sing practically the whole song prior to stopping on a word. As we came to a stop light, people in the car next to us looked over just as Bode was lifting up his arm to emphasize a high note while singing "Onward Christian Soldiers": "Sol---ol-ol-diers!" We all screamed because he had ended on "soldiers"! Think of another song with soldiers! Of course, in the game one is
penalized if one sings a song and doesn't have a song with the word in it to counter attack. We knew Bode would always know the word and we'd lose a point if we challenged. In those days, it was "caissons" and not soldiers, so I couldn't respond with the Army song! Damn! Another point for Bode! Guess what? None of us challenged--of course we were afraid to challenge--so he had bluffed us and he gloated that he hadn't had a song with "soldiers" ready!
One evening he had taken us to the Fayette Theater for a movie and when he returned to pick us up, SHE was in the car. I always sat in the front with him and although SHE invited me to sit with them, I jumped in the back with three other brothers. We had never had to share him with anyone. SHE tried to have conversation with us and I was so upset because my brothers were answering all of her questions as if nothing were wrong. Of course, when we got home, I ran in to tell my mother that he had had a girl in the car with us. Two weeks later, SHE was my sister-in-law and I was nine years old.