Have you ever lost a loved one? Or do you know someone who has? It leaves an empty place in your life, so maybe you turn to those heartfelt memories to get you through. That’s what I’m doing today, and I hope you’ll allow me to share some memories about my brother, Lee, who made his transition last week.
Life is for making memories, and we made lots of them. My mother was widowed when my older brother Jackie was 11, I was 6, and Lee was 3. She took a bar waitress job in the Starlight Bar down the street for $1.00 per night plus tips, and sometimes she took us with her to work. We’d eat potato chips, drink soda pop, and listen to her sing on the mic when she wasn’t busy. Then Jackie took us home at bedtime.
For some reason until Lee started school, Mama called him Boy. That’s when Aunt Ruth said he should have a name, and he became Lee. We were Depression kids in Detroit, and most of the country knew what it felt like to be hungry. Every month our landlady took us to get free groceries, and Boy hopped in the wagon, yelling and waving to everyone on the way to the food bank. But when the wagon was full, his little legs ran beside it, helping us pull it all the way home.
When Boy had scarlet fever, he and Mama were quarantined, and the doctor came everyday without charge. Jackie and I stayed with our aunt, uncle, and cousins, and I remember standing outside the window with the family making faces to cheer up my little brother. He looked so pitiful.
One day Jackie and I found Boy outside counting pennies and nickels. Wow. That was a lot of money. He said he found it in the back of our chair where the piano player from the Starlight Bar sat when he visited Mama. Change fell from his pocket and lodged in the back of the chair. So from then on, every time someone came to the apartment, Boy led them to that chair and shared the loot with Jackie and me for candy and movies.
Lee was 8 years old when we moved back to Florida where Aunt Edna had 6 Toy Manchester Terriers, and Lee loved all of them. When he was in junior high school, his love for animals brought us a wonderful surprise. We moved to Daytona Beach with Aunt Dell and more cousins, and the morning we left, Lee talked Mama into letting him ride in the back of the truck. Then when we arrived and went to unload the truck, a shiny black nose peeked out from under a blanket. Mama jumped, and Lee said, “It’ just a dog, Mama. I had to sneak down and get him last night from where they chained him and beat him. I couldn’t leave him there.” “Well, that’s stealing,” she answered. Lee grinned. “Oh, no, Mama. God doesn’t care. He’s glad I rescued him.” Shep ran in the ocean with us, got sprayed with a skunk, and showed his gratitude for many free and happy years with us. In Lee’s later years, he and Ginny had a Golden Retriever named Sunny they dearly loved.
Later we moved back to DeLand where Lee played football and rekindled relationships. One in particular was Ginny Sullivan. They fell in love and married after high school graduation when Lee joined the Army. They had 3 children and spent 62 happy years together. He graduated from the University of Florida, worked as a Trust Auditor for Barnett Banks, later headed the Trust Auditing Division of Florida National Banks, and was very active in his field.
I’m proud of Lee’s accomplishments, but when I remember him, I remember the person he was. He complained when he saw a person or animal abused, he bitched about the unfairness in the world, he criticized injustice, and had no patience in a traffic jam. And he was one of the most loving, kind, gentle souls I’ve ever known. And one of the most loved by all who knew him. I smile when I remember he always said I was his favorite sister. I’m the only one, so that claim is special to me.
I love you, and I’ll always miss you, Lee. Thank you for so many beautiful memories.
And thank you all for listening. You are a blessing.
Marilyn Fowler, Author