Today, December 30th is my brother’s birthday. He died in 1975 from complications of the flu and there are many times through the years that I have missed him greatly. He was a good brother, although he teased me way too much, and he had a zest for life which made his passing all the more painful. Today I want to tell you about him.
George’s birth was difficult for my Mom because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and yet he was delivered naturally. He was deprived of some oxygen during birth and my Dad always said that he was very black when first seen by my Dad as the nurses were working on him in the nursery. I guess his birth is what made him such a fighter for life.
He was the second child born to my parents and my sister was eight years old when George was born. My Mom planned to breast feed him but the nurses got her mixed up with her roommate and accidentally gave her the injection to dry up her milk. This was the second problem that George had in life because there was only one baby formula available at that time and George was allergic to it and couldn’t keep it down. My Mom used to say that she thought had he been born later in life he would have benefited by soy milk formula, but it wasn’t available at the time of his birth. My Dad said that George was probably the only person in history to survive eating only home canned peach juice the first year of his life. It was all that he seemed capable of keeping down. It made him grow and he made it through babyhood even though he cried all the time. In fact when I was born two and a half years later I cried all the time too because I thought I was supposed to cry since George cried all the time, or so my Mom told me.
As life progressed for George it was evident that he had a lot of allergies but at a time when allergies were not diagnosed or treated until he was in his teens. He survived and was a very active child. I remember trying to keep up with him and believe me that was hard work!
One of my favorite memories as children was playing with an old oil drum barrel that we would stand on and rolled it around the yard while staying upright on it. We had another barrel that my Dad helped George tie in a tree so that we could pretend we were riding a horse. We put an old saddle on it and were really wild in our play as we pretended to be a bronco rider like our Grandpa! That was so much fun. Of course falling off was fun for George but not for me!
One of my least favorite memories of my brother was when we slept in bunk beds in the same room until I was seven years old. He was on the top and I was on the bottom. He would lift up the mattress and look down on me and try to spit on me. He would also tell me creepy stories about spiders and snakes that made me afraid. I got even with him as all good sisters do because I was a bed wetter and I would craw into his bed after wetting mine and sleep with him. He was a good and protective brother though most of the time.
George and I were baptized at the same time in the Sand Pits, a small lake in Nebraska. I remember how we went forward together and gave our confession that we believed Jesus was God’s Son and that He died for our sins and rose again in newness of life. I took my vow before the Lord very seriously and I know that George did too. He had very high morals and thoughts about what was right and what was wrong, but he was also a back-slider at times. He had a pretty good command of all the cuss-words and used them quite often. He would even be a bully sometimes but he also protected many others who were victims of bullying too.
George loved the outdoors and loved to hunt, fish, and especially trap. He was eleven when he shot his first turkey and was thirteen when he shot his first deer. He also trapped a bobcat and I still have the furry thing. He could have sold it and made some money but he wanted to keep it as a trophy of sorts. His favorite time of the year involved snow and cold. He especially loved spending time with our Grandparents on their ranch that bordered forest areas of Northern Nebraska. We had some fun times pretending to be cowboys and Indians at my grandparents’ home, which was a little log cabin. When I watch the television show Mountain Men I think of how he would have enjoyed watching it too, come to think of it he would probably be the star of that show! He loved to camp and build traps and drink water from the stream and all the things involved with survival in the woods.
George was smart but he hated to be stuck in a schoolroom and rebelled at every turn when it came to organized learning. His teachers would tell my parents that he was capable of getting A’s on his assignments but instead he would pass with C’s and D’s and F’s until Mom would get mad and then back up came the grades to D’s and C’s. In high school he just loved one of our teachers and so for her he would get A’s and she taught English no less! I often wondered if he charmed her into giving him A’s but then I also knew that he could do well if he wanted.
George was not easy to parent I am sure. But he had such a wit about him and could make you laugh when you needed to and I miss that! My sister and I both agreed that George was the reason our Mother had a white head of hair so early in life! I’m sure he scared her so many times with his jumping off the chicken house roof or out of the tree not to mention the snakes he would play with. My Dad would get him interested in mechanics. I remember that together they built a model airplane that actually flew. George was always building something and he took a lawn mower motor and made a go-cart. His mechanical skill was taught to him by our Dad no doubt.
In high school he took shop and while most boys were building a cedar chest he built a dune buggy. It didn’t have a floor on it and it wasn’t legal to drive on the highway so we would take it to my Great-Grandma’s pasture and drive it around. My most humiliating memory was when he asked me to steer and he jumped off the dune buggy and had timed it all so that I drove over a fresh pile of cow manure and it splattered all over me and got on my dress and in my hair and it was awful! I ran him down and wanted to kill him! It’s a good thing he ran for safety toward an embankment that I couldn’t drive up. Then not half-an-hour later he did the same thing to me only this time he timed it so that I drove right through a big puddle of water and he said he was just trying to help me clean off the manure! I wanted to kill him again but my great aunts intervened, after they stopped laughing that is, and sent him out to the men and took me into the bathroom to help clean me up. My Mom was so embarrassed that her teenagers would act so horribly at a family picnic! I saw her point!
George also loved motorcycles and stock cars. We spent some happy times going to the stock car races. He and a friend built a stock car and raced it sometimes. But the motorcycle rides were what I remember the most. George said that he always loved to have me ride on the back of his bike because I had some pounds on me as did he in later years, and he could get his bike over 100 MPH without having the tires life off the ground. I loved going that fast too! Thankfully we never got caught or killed! I would let my long hair blow wildly in the wind and then spend hours getting all the tangles out, but my, what fun memories!
George was constantly rescuing me. When I would get all the children angry with me he would defend me and fight any of them that tried to harm me. When I would get my car stuck he would get me out of the snowdrift or the ditch. When I had a car accident he was the one that called the police and got me the help I needed. When my front door, the only way out of my apartment, had a three-foot snowdrift blocking it he came with a snow shovel and cleared my door. When I did something stupid his punishment was far worse than my parents.
George made his friends allow me to go with them when they went to the movies at the drive-in provided I promised to go and get what they wanted from the snack bar. I can’t tell you how many times they moved the car while I was at the snack bar and laughed as I looked frantically for them. After the fifth or sixth time I decided to stop playing the game their way and sat down at a speaker and began to eat the pizza and pop and it wasn’t long until they found me. Little sisters aren’t so dumb after all!
And when George died seventeen days before his twenty-third birthday and on his first wedding anniversary of complications from the flu a part of me died too. I was devastated that my best friend from childhood and teenage years was gone. Someday I will tell you about that day but not today. Today I want to remember how special he was. Abusive at times? Yes but not any more than most brothers of that era. Rude at times? Almost always but always in such funny ways. Hyperactive? Most definitely especially when with our cousins Dennis and Jim. A Christian? I think so and I hope so but I don’t know for sure because I am not God. George was not perfect but he was my brother and I loved him and hated him and loved him even more. We may have fought like cats and dogs but we had a bond that no one can understand unless you have a brother who took you shooting, motorcycling, stock car racing, ice skating in a car, and on all night drives to nowhere and everywhere.
Happy Birthday George, I hope to see you again sometime soon.