September 14th is always a bittersweet day for me. This is the day my baby brother was born. Unfortunately, he died suddenly at the age of 31 back in 2005. Math was never my subject, but Don Don would have been 36 today.
Yep. Don Don. Somehow we got started calling Donny that when he was a tot. He didn't mind as a tot, but he sure wasn't too fond of it as an adult, and he had the heft to back up his displeasure when he got older. He was my little brother in all ways but size.
I moved away from home when Donny was just a kid, so naturally, nearly all my memories of him surround our childhood. He was the first baby I'd ever been around. I remember peering into his crib, seeing him sleeping, his mouth moving as though he had a bottle in it. I remember thinking "What a dumb kid. There's no bottle!"
Hey how was I to know that ALL babies did that? He was the first I'd ever seen!
I remember other things. His love of motorcycles (mo-mo cycles) and asking for some "moke" (milk). How he loved to run out to the front yard and watch the trains pass by.
As I was next to youngest and Donny was the last of the 5 children, we ended up hanging out a lot until he got a bit older and sisters weren't too cool. I remember walking down the street with him and singing Beach Boys songs, his love of animals (especially dogs). He was also a rough-houser--sometimes too much.
He was very soft hearted and also tough as nails. Loved kids. And oh what a wicked sense of humor! He could always make you laugh. As he grew up he looked like one tough hombre--picture one of those bouncers on the TV shows. It was very hard for me in the first 3-4 years after his death to see big guys with that weird little goatee thing going on b/c it reminded me so much of him. I don't see the weird little goatee things as much on men any more---perhaps they are not quite as much in style nowadays.
It wasn't all sunshine and roses with Donny, of course. He wasn't perfect, just like the rest of us. And he could get in a temper for sure.
I still struggle to understand why he was taken so young, but that's a question millions of people have asked about their deceased love ones, and there just isn't a satisfactory answer this side of heaven.
But I'm grateful that as the years pass and the pain lessens, I'm left with the good memories we shared. I can't hear Surfin' USA without thinking of him, or see a motorcycle without thinking of him. While it's painful to lose a loved one, the gift we receive are those little things, little moments, that stir our memories and keep them alive inside us forever.
Miss you, Don Don!