Today is my brother's 51st birthday. He is unfortunate enough to be the only surviving male with three sisters. We had another brother, but that's a story for another post. As soon as I locate a picture that perfectly captures his personality, which I know I have here somewhere. It's not digital, though, so I have to figure out which box it's in and scan it.
Jack and I are the closest in age, but I never really considered us close when we were growing up. Since he beat me up and tormented me all the time, I thought he didn't like me. I was grown before I realized that beating me up was a privilege reserved just for him, and he would probably have killed anyone else who bothered me. But he protected me from afar, and I thought he didn't like me. I thought he was embarrassed to have me for a little sister.
As I have mentioned before, we lived some of our formative years in a trailer park. Even though we are three and a half years apart in age, apparently we looked enough alike that some people in the trailer park thought we were twins. Some referred to us as "Springy" and "Nappy." I don't know which one I was.
Once he put me in the dryer at the laundromat in our trailer park, and he held the door shut until I promised I wouldn't tell on him. (And of course I did, just as soon as I escaped.) If he'd had a dime, I know he would have turned the damn thing on. He's probably the reason I'm not fond of being in small spaces today.
Another time he busted my lip with a class ring. For some reason, I was the one who wasn't allowed to go to the basketball game that night. As Mom put it, "You must have said something to deserve it."
Jack was mischievous and unlucky, always a dangerous combination. When he was a teenager, he and a friend broke into our high school and vandalized it. Jack also tended toward dumb friends. The friend who broke into the school with him spray painted his girlfriend's name everywhere. Not that they wouldn't have gotten caught anyway, but I'm just sayin'. Jack got probation for that, but he violated his probation and spent some time in our county jail. I would ride the bus to the jail some afternoons and visit him there, and Mom would pick me up on her way home from work. I've been tempted to send that tidbit to Jeff Foxworthy.
One afternoon when I got off the bus the sheriff met me at the door. He was a big, imposing man, and naturally I was afraid of him.
"Visiting hours are on Sunday," he said.
"Uhh......okay," I stammered.
There I was, miles from home with no ride for a couple of hours, and I couldn't even visit my brother. Even if I had summoned the courage to ask to use the phone, Mom couldn't have left work early to come get me. So I just killed two hours sitting outside the jail.
Jack is a charmer, and he became a trusty of the jail. He would drive a deputy's car the few miles to the cafeteria that provided the inmates' meals. He took the cars to the local car wash and cleaned them up. When I went to visit him in jail, he was usually sitting in the office with his feet propped up on a desk.
Evidently he took his trusty position a little too far. I didn't know what was going on the day the sheriff met me at the door, but apparently Jack had acquired a ........ key to the jail. He was only a prisoner during the day. At night he left and had a grand old time, as long as he was back in the morning. The plan would have worked indefinitely, if another inmate hadn't .......... escaped ....... about that time. I distinctly remember Jack saying, "Sumbitch said he'd come back."
That got him some time at the "big house," which wasn't a maximum security facility or anything like that, but it sure woke him up. I think he spent about a year there, earning his GED while he was there. He made the highest score anyone there had ever gotten, I think. He said that made him the valedictorian. To this day he refers to that institution as his "alma mater."
Before my ex and I got married, he and I were out one night, WAY too late on a school night. It was my first year of teaching, and Sweet Girl had spent the night at Mom's house. At around midnight, I turned to my ex and said, "Something is wrong." I didn't say it with any forethought, and I was a little embarrassed that I had blurted out such a foolish thing. "What are you TALKING about?" he scoffed (one of the MANY reasons he's an ex). "I don't know," I said, "but something is just not right."
I took him home and headed to my place. I couldn't shake the feeling, and I almost went to Mom's house to spend the night rather than go home alone. But Grandmother was visiting, and I didn't want to disturb the household any more than necessary. So I went home alone, uneasy and jumpy.
The next morning Mom called to say Jack had been in an accident the night before. He had been thrown from the car, and he had lain there for about three hours before someone found the accident. Had I gone to Mom's house the night before, I would have been the one to find him.
****The next part is not for the weak of stomach. You've been warned.****
When Jack was thrown from the car, he skidded on the pavement alongside it. He remembers pushing away from the car to keep it from running over him. You know how tough a dollar bill is? Well, he had a ten-dollar bill IN his wallet, IN his back pocket, and it had a hole in it from his skidding across the pavement. You can just imagine how the other side of his butt looked, the side that didn't have the wallet for padding...
Somehow his leg got broken, too, but he didn't know it. He wasn't aware that the bone was sticking out. He tried to get up and walk, and he ground the bone down into the pavement. (I warned you that this was not for the weak of stomach.)
Jack had some firearms in the car (I didn't mention that it was MOM'S car he was driving), and he wasn't supposed to have them due to his stint in the big house. So when he realized he couldn't walk, he CRAWLED to the car and got them out, CRAWLED up into the woods and hid them, and then CRAWLED back to the car to await rescue. It was early December, the first really cold night we had experienced that year, and that is probably what kept him from dying right there on the side of the road.
He was out of work for a year, and there was a time when we thought he might lose his leg. Bone fragments continued to work their way to the surface for many months after his accident. His leg isn't pretty, but he's glad to have it. And I'm glad the cold kept him alive that night. I have always wondered if anything would have been different had I followed my gut feeling and gone to Mom's house that night.
We live about an hour apart now, and we don't see each other as much as we'd like. Jack is more settled now, but he still has his wild side. He still loves cars and motorcycles, and he is still charming. When his daughter got married, all three of his wives attended the ceremony. He had a grandson and a daughter born the same year, five months apart. He loves jokes and sports and his family. Every time we talk on the phone, he never fails to say, "I love you." And it never fails to choke me up.
Happy Birthday, Brudder!!!