Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To my long lost hero…

Donny, Andrew, and '54 Chevy
Today would be my brother Donny’s 36th birthday.  The last birthday we celebrated with him was 6 years ago at Red Lobster. My family likes to get together for dinner to celebrate our birthdays.  I remember driving around to several stores trying to find a ’54 Chevy Bell Air model as a gift, the same year as his.  I had to settle for a ’56.  I figured it would be a good gift for him since we spent a lot of time in hospital for his treatments.  Of course he couldn’t wait and started putting it together at the table.  Yup, that’s my brother for you.  I have so many wonderful memories of my brother and me growing up together. We were 18 months apart so we were close.  It still hurts me to talk about his cancer and how fast it took him away from us, it makes me angry too.  Since I couldn’t find the strength to read the speech (which I still carry in my wallet) at his wake service, I thought I would share some bits from it…

I don’t remember all the details of Donny’s arrival into the world, but I remember through pictures and stories helping mom feed him and being proud to be a big sister. As we grew we did a lot of things together. The two of us had such big imaginations; I remember playing super-heroes and detectives.  Wrestle Mania started getting big and we used to turn the living room into a wrestling wring with the couch pillows.  We used to say, “Ring da bell momma, ring da bell” to start our little matches.

When we got bigger we did a lot of growing up outside. We played a lot of baseball and wiffle ball in the back yard. One time Donny lowered the lawnmower and cut a baseball diamond in the back yard. I remember dad not being too happy about it then. When Donny was 4 he took the training wheels off my bike and just took off, he had no fear when it came to those things, much like his youngest son Owen. An interesting tid bit to add, Donny was almost 5 and he had been practicing on the swing set swinging from the top like George of the Jungle. He couldn’t wait to show dad when he got up for work, back then dad worked nights. When dad came out Donny started hanging onto the top and swinging back and forth when lost his grip and fell to the ground breaking his arm.  Owen last summer, just before his 5th birthday, was swinging as high as he could and jumping off. I believe he was making it a game to see who could get the highest when he fell to the ground breaking his arm. 

Donny liked to take things apart to see how they worked. He was smart in the sense that if we both had the same item, he would take mine apart. I remember being off playing at the house that had a horse nearby and coming home to see my dirt bike in a million pieces, all the ball bearings out of their shields, every little piece. It took me forever to get that back together and it never really pedaled the same way after that. He left it unlocked and it was stolen shortly there after. Funny how that works..  He took apart a lot of things that I had to put back together. I kind of owe him for my career in the computer technology field. It also made him a great car mechanic.

When we got to High School I participated in a lot of sports. What I was best at was running. I never thought in a million years my brother would try to follow in my footsteps in that area. I figured as big as he turned out he would be great at football, but no his freshman year he joined the Cross Country team. Image if you will a 6 ft something, 250 something running long distance. I thought he was crazy, I was like 5’ 5” and 94 lbs. and it was hard for me. That didn’t bother him though, I guess he just wanted to be able to spend time with me or show interest in something I did. I remember one race he ran like it was yesterday; it was a home meet at our school. Mom got to come to watch this one. At the end of the race I remember seeing Donny walking through the gates at the top of the hill about 100 yards from the finish line that led onto the track. Our entire men’s and women’s cross country teams were standing along the track waiting for him. Everyone was cheering his name and I was so proud. He started running again and the cheering got louder. There was one other runner in front of him, kind of the same build as him. Donny caught up with him and they both started running their little hearts out. Donny didn’t give up, passed him, and beat him. Usually in sports stories they host the camp up in the air, but in this case all the little cross country guys wouldn’t stand a chance lifting Donny up.   Instead the entire team circled around him and cheered his victory as though he won the entire race. They guy he beat was from Kickapoo High and a teammate chanted, “Hey Donny, you kicked him in the poo!”  I think even one of the freshman who medaled in the race gave his medal to Donny.  It was such a proud moment for me.

I never realized that Donny looked up to me growing up; I always figured he just liked to get on my nerves taking my things apart. In 2004 I played for the St. Louis Slam, a woman’s full contact football team. Donny came to all my home games.  I got injured playing and had to have knee surgery.  I also needed new tires or an oil change, so my friend drove me and my car up to Dobbs to see him. I was on crutches, so it was a day or two after surgery. Donny was so excited to show me his tool box, he opened a drawer and in it was a newspaper article with a picture of the team with my name mentioned in it. He was so proud of me that all his work buddies knew about it as they stopped by to say Hi. I was overwhelmed because I had no idea. Of course they all asked me if I was going to play the following year.

I hope I was able to show Donny how proud I was of him. When I was bigger than him, I used to beat up the kids that would tease or make fun him. He didn’t need me much as we got older, but I would be right behind him in any battle if he ever needed it. He always had the biggest heart of anyone I ever knew. He was the kind of guy that even if he didn’t have a pot to piss in, he would give everything he had if you needed it. He loved his family and friends so much there wasn’t anything he would do for any of us, no matter what the consequence. My sister-in-law shared a story the last week he was with us in body. This was the time when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Donny was watching TV and there was a family on the screen that had lost everything, but each other. He told Tricia that they needed to help them, this family needed a place to stay. When Tricia asked how, he said “you know the Wilson family who is standing right here in our living room.” Even though the family wasn’t really in the living room, Tricia humored him and said they would see what they could do. Because of his big heart and so many things I always looked up to him. He was my little big brother, my hero who fought such a courageous battle.

It has been almost 6 years since Donny passed and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t miss him.  Every now and then I hear a Metallica song and have to blare it as he did when we were growing up. I know every word to “Enter Sandman”.  It makes me smile…

I love you Donny! Happy Birthday! I hope to see you in never never land…

Slideshow pictures of Donny through the years

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