August 21, 1991
It was a day to remember. Ok, cliche, I know, but fitting. I had scheduled to take most of the day off to trade-in my 1985 VW GTI, a really great pocket rocket that had seen lots of fun driving. It was the best overall handling and driving sports compact of its day. But I really wanted a VW Vanagon Syncro, especially after VW announced they were discontinuing the Vanagon in the US for the Eurovan which was in production for about two years now.
I had visited the dealer before and had put down a deposit on one if they could find one. They called the week before to say they found two, a silver one and a white one, and to ask which color I wanted, like it really mattered. They called again to say only the white one was available and they'll prep it for pickup. It was 10:00 am when I arrived and it was 12:30 when I drove it home. It was so cool.
When I got home, the answering machine was blinking with a message from Mom. "Your brother passed away this morning at home in Kansas City. Call with your travel arrangements so we can meet you."
The first trip in the van was to the Seattle-Tacoma (SeaTac) airport to fly to Denver (folks) and on to Kansas City where I spent the next three days with family and friends. After I got home, and having the rest of the week off, I drove to Westport on the coast. I had been there before as part of my routine field work. There is a place you can park behind the dunes, and walk out on the beach to see the ocean, the vast expanse of sand, water and light against the horizon.
I walked to the edge of the ocean and placed some flowers from the funeral ceremony on the receding water, and watch it slowly flow in and out, and out into the ocean to be lost in the sense of the larger world. My brother never saw the Pacific Ocean despite wanting to all his life, stuck in the heartland for work and family. His only trip west, to LA was for business and he said he didn't see the ocean and couldn't find the time to go to the beach.
The van is still with me, although I often wonder about writing the checks for the repairs to keep it in good shape. It's nicknamed Spirit for him (along with shoebox for its shape and capacity to carry almost anything). Although I forget at times, it always reminds me it's about life. And driving it is about the freedom to go. It's about a brother who stayed and his spirit to want, but that's also another story.
And every year on this day I spend the time to remember him.
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