Updated: Jul 24, 2022
When we were kids, my brother Rick and I built a city in our back yard.
The yard was filled with pine trees, and every fall, when they dropped their needles, Rick and I would rake them into winding rows, a grid of interconnected “roads” on which we would pedal our bikes from point to point. Our dad’s tool shed became the mall and grocery store, where we snuck ice pops and frozen Ding Dongs from the deep freezer. The huge muscadine “tree” was our grocery store. Our mother’s clothesline represented the power company. Our highway stretched from the top of the hill at the back of our yard, down to our back porch, around the power company, and back up the hill, where it diverged to end at our two “houses”.
The first year we built our city, I was probably about 9, and Rick would have been 6. I had been busy constructing our highway when I noticed Rick’s little blonde head down the hill, at the grove of trees at the boundary between our property and that of our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Fuller. He was busy raking leaves and needles into neat borders. I strode down the hill, rake in hand, to inspect.
As I approached, my brother stopped his raking and grinned. “The door is there,” he said, pointing to a narrow opening between two thick trunks. Frowning, I walked through. “This is the living room,” he said, gesturing to the widest open space in the center of the grove, “and the bedroom is here.” He’d outlined a long, thin space where a few smaller trees clustered.
I had to admit, it was awesome. Rick’s creativity had surpassed mine once again, and I was jealous.
“I was going to live here,” I said, staring him down. Which wasn’t true. I hadn’t even thought about our “houses” yet. But it was the coolest spot in the yard, and I was the older sister.
Rick may have hesitated for half a second before he said, “I made it for you.” Then he happily skipped over to the middle of the yard, where our swing set stood, and began making another “house” that was just as cool.
Honestly, probably cooler. He had the monkey bars, after all.
That’s what Rick was like. Generous to a fault. Infinitely kind. Unbelievably patient with his bossy older sister. Always willing to see the positive of everything. And forever loving.
Rick died last week. We don’t know why exactly, and the why doesn’t really matter ultimately. He’s gone in the physical sense, leaving a huge hole in our family and in our hearts.
I have a lot of Rick stories. The time we created an original play for our parents, complete with musical numbers and, if I remember correctly, a comedy routine where Rick told jokes from a book we got through Scholastic. The many dramatic, detailed adventures we created with our Playskool castle, barn, and schoolhouse. The time we found a stack of Playboy magazines in the woods behind Margie Circle. (“Those seem fake,” was a running joke for a while.)
The time he visited me in Dallas, after my divorce, and went with me to Deep Ellum to see Deep Blue Something play at Trees. When he reminded me I had a lot going for me. When he reminded me I was loved.
No one could rag on the Baby Boomers better than Rick. No one could quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Blazing Saddles, or The Princess Bride better than Rick. No one packed a tobacco pipe better than Rick, and no one made a finer Marga-rona.
Rick was my oldest, best friend. I thought we’d be elderly Gen Xers together, sitting in our rocking chairs and banging our heads to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” while we smoked our medical marijuana and said things like, “Whatever, man,” and “There’s an IQ prerequisite, but no secret handshake.”
I wish I could call him up and talk to him about how much I miss him. I wish I could go back in time and change whatever it was that took him from us.
Mostly I hope he knew how much he was loved, and how much fun it was being his big sister.
Thanks for being my partner in shenanigans, Rick. I love you, bro.