Grandpa Dieter, Jerry and me.
My brother Jerry was born exactly 14 months after I was.
Because my dad was in the South Pacific fighting in WWII, he didn’t know immediately that Jerry had arrived. He received the letter about it, not from my mother–that never arrived–but from his sister. That letter arrived in mid-summer–4-5 months later!
Nothing like these days with emails, Skype, and cell phones…
Because Dad was gone in our first years of life, Mom took many photos to send to him. A few of them survive. But not my parents or Jerry.
I miss my brother often, but especially on his birthday. Why? Because we’d always be in touch that day. One of the few times we missed was when he was onboard ship while he served as a Marine. My card arrived when they reached a port and mail call was held.
Because he was the oldest boy and I was the oldest girl, we grew up feeling a strong sense of responsibility for our younger siblings. One of the stories Jerry loved to tell (always with great embellishment) was the time I threw a knife at him. Almost killed him, he would conclude his story.
Jerry is the one to the right of me in the dark jumper. My dad’s parents’ home and their grandchildren.
Now he knew he’d irritate me with that last because it wasn’t true. But he loved to tease me with a good story.
But here’s the real story.
Jerry was he was out with his teenage buddies, and I was taking care of my younger sisters. Mom and Dad had gone out on a Saturday night which didn’t happen often. I can’t remember where my two other brothers were. But no matter.
My sisters had finally gone to sleep, and I was settling in to read a book when I heard noises from outside. It was well after ten at night and dark.
I looked out the windows but didn’t see anything. Then I heard more noise and what sounded like scratching at the back door. A low light flickered in the back hall when I checked out the sound. I didn’t go down the stairs because I saw the back door handle move. I heard rattling and some rustling noises.
My protectiveness kicked in.I was alone and my sisters were sleeping. Dad and Mom had left me to care for them.
Only a lightweight chain lock held the old door, and since I had been reading a mystery, my mind flipped to burglers. Or worse. (Okay, I admit–I was a drama queen back then)
So I crept to the kitchen to find something to protect my sisters and me–just in case. I found a small paring knife. I would have taken a broom, but I’d have had to pass that back door and go into the basement to get one.
I crept back from the kitchen, my ears alert to any other unusual sounds.
Still nothing except the scraping and rustling outside the back door. Then I heard voices.
“Jerry, is that you?” I asked thinking he really should be home by now. Since we didn’t have housekeys (who needed such things back then?), he wouldn’t be able to get in with the back door chained.
No answer–just more scraping. Then I heard the muttering of several voices. All deep, guttural, male.
“Jerry, is that you?” (And how stupid was that on my part? A burglar or worse would say yes, right?) But I was getting irritated.
Jerry a few years before he died.
Still no response. But the back door eased open more slowly than water boils when you’re watching it.
“Jerry, is that you? Answer me or you’ll be sorry. So help me you will.”
A black-gloved hand slipped through the doorway opened now the width of the chain.
Then hand slid up toward the chain and started yanking at it.
You guessed it. I threw the knife. It landed on the floor–at least 2 feet from the door.
Laughing erupted from outside the door.
You guessed it. It was Jerry and his friends–all very satisfied that they’d gotten the best of me.
Mom and Dad never heard that story until long after Jerry and I were both adults and out of the house. Naturally, they heard it from Jerry who each time he told it, I had drawn more blood. Practically killed him, he told them with a wink.
He loved to tease, Jerry did, and I was a perfect target. But we loved each other dearly.
He wasn’t a perfect man–who is? He believed in family and loved big family gatherings. He had a generous heart which sometimes got him into trouble. I wish he could be here today with us–to see the little grandson of his who looks so much like Jerry’s photos at that age–the ones Mom took to send to the South Pacific for Dad.
He’d love to spoil and to tease his beautiful granddaughters just as he did his daughter, his little sisters, me.
He’d burst with pride at the wee grandson who was born shortly before last Christmas–a holiday he loved.
My brother Jerry. The story teller long before I thought I could weave stories for others. The son who loved his parents. The brother who always wanted to protect unless he was busy teasing.
Happy Birthday, Jerry. I hope you, Eric, John and Jimbo, Mom and Dad and all the others we’ve loved and lost are enjoying the most heavenly day — and for you, Jerry, here’s a cherry pie, too. 🙂
Early March sunrise