Today, Stevie, my younger brother by two years, would have been fifty-seven had he lived. He was eighteen years old when he died in a car accident. He lost control of the car he was driving and slammed into an old tree where he sustained a head injury.
It was the most shocking news I had ever received, that night Dad called to tell us he had died. But in all honesty, I wasn’t surprised in the least. It’s funny how those two things can co-exist. You see I had spent the better part of my teen years worried about Stevie; watching him spiral to a place of dependence on alcohol and drugs.
I had also spent the latter part of those years lying awake in bed at night, unable to go to sleep, fretting because of the sirens I heard in the distance, hoping and praying the reason had nothing to do with my younger brother. I found myself unable to fall asleep until I heard him come in the backdoor and make his way down the basement stairs where his bedroom was located. He had made it safely home once again. All was well and I could go to sleep.
All my memories about Stevie aren’t just of his addicted lifestyle during his teens. I have fond memories of him as well, memories of my younger, pesky little brother.
I was sandwiched in between two boys. My older brother was thirteen months older than me, but because of the dates of our births, he was two years ahead of me in school. Stevie was two years behind. We weren’t really close, my brothers and me, but we had that sibling bond going on, where I could say negative things about them, but you better not!
Stevie was a hot-head, hyper kind of kid. He was a good athlete and enjoyed playing ball- football, baseball, basketball, kickball…all the games, with his friends from our neighborhood and school. He liked to fish and hunt and he liked to climb trees; and he had a bit of a dare-devil spirit. He was also a gifted musician.
Our mother played piano and insisted my brothers and I take piano lessons during our elementary years. I eagerly looked forward to being in the sixth grade. That was when we each got to decide whether we wanted to continue with lessons or not. We all chose “Or not”. It’s not that I didn’t like playing piano, I just didn’t love it and I would rather have been doing something with my friends.
Stevie, however, had a gift. True musicians can’t Not play. They Have to play. They love playing. So, they play. Stevie went on to play the guitar, and later the bass guitar, because no one really wanted to play bass guitar. He could, so he did. No lessons were ever taken. He could simply pick an instrument up and play. He could sing as well, but I mostly remember him playing guitar.
It wasn’t uncommon for Stevie to be involved in an altercation of some kind or other. Like I said, he was a bit of a hot-head. He was stubborn and he liked to win. He was also funny, and caring. He had a special affection for cats, and that’s how we came to have a gray kitten named Tinker. I wasn’t very fond of Tinker, but that’s another story for another time.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Stevie had lived longer. Would he have gotten into recovery from his harmful choices? Would he have married? Had kids? Would we have continued to be friends as we aged?
Stevie was my little brother. He became my friend.
I miss him still, and think of him fondly, but never more than on this day.
Happy Birthday in heaven. You may be gone, but not forgotten.