Thursday, June 10, 2010
In Memory of My Brother Buddy
My brother Buddy was the oldest of my parent's five Children. He was ten years older than me. When Irene and I were little, as in the photo to the left, Buddy had two pair of boxing gloves. Yes, you guessed it, he put a pair on Irene and then a pair on me, had us stand each in a corner of our parent's bed, set the alarm clock to ring, and taught us to come out swinging. He was always teasing us, and trying to get us to kill each other or at least create some havoc.
Once he held Irene down on the floor and had me tickle her until she cried, and then let her loose. Well, I ran out through one door, and back in another and locked her out of the house, then Mom arrived home just in the nick of time to save my life.
I think he enjoyed teasing us girls so much because each time my mother was pregnant he hoped for a boy, and mom had a girl. She didn't have another boy until a month after Buddy had a son of his own. During the Christmas season when Irene was born on December 1, 1948, Buddy wished for an Lyonel American Flyer Train Set. After Mom explained to him that because of his new baby sister that they couldn't afford a train that year, he promptly replied, "Return the baby, I want a train!"
Buddy didn't stop with teasing us, he teased Mom too. He would walk into the house with a story that went like this"MOM...Oh my goodness, did you hear, there are dead bodies all over the place up the hill????" Mom would reply in utter dismay, "Oh my God, no what happened???" And then Buddy would reply while chuckling , " You know up there in the cemetery at the top of the hill!"
On another occasion he walked into the house huffing,and puffing, devastatingly declaring that there was a really messy accident on the corner of Vulcanite and Third. When Mom did her usual, "Oh my God what happened?"(you would think she would have figured him out by then, but she didn't) He replied, "A Mustang ran into a Thunderbird, and there is horse shit and feathers all over the road!" Then there was the time he told all of us about the time he was sitting at the gas station in Union Square in Phillipsburg getting gas, when a dog walked into the station and started licking up a puddle of gas on the pavement. The dog started running around in circles and then dropped over. Mom in her usual dismayed reply asked if the dog died, and Buddy replied, "No, he ran out of gas!"
He didn't stop with mom either, he played pranks on dad too. Once he put shaving cream in dad's hand while he fell asleep in the chair, and then tickled his nose. Well, Buddy ended up on the receiving end that time, as Dad swung his arm outward and hit Buddy in the mouth and knocked his tooth loose.
Buddy's stories never ended, he always had a funny story to tell, whether it was about his escapades at work in Ingersoll Rand's Drill Floor, or a story about one of his crazy friends. There were stories about bowling on the Drill Floor, playing poker on the Drill Floor, and playing pranks on the Drill Floor. It is amazing that he lasted 41 years working for I.R., but he was also a dedicated and proficient tool and die maker, a skill he learned from our dad.
There were stories of Brad Hall and Sterling Clymer, and the pranks they played on neighbors, and daring feats they pulled off around the neighborhood in Phillipsburg when he they were teens.
Buddy set up pins in the basement bowling alley of the Elks Club on S. Main Street in Phillipsburg, and along with his buddies he also stole clams from the steamers on the stoves in the kitchen of the Elks, right through the open window. Some of his stories reminded me of the Bowery Boys from the old time black and white television movies.
Once he shaved our neighbor Mike Mowery's head bald, and blackened it with shoe polish when he fell asleep in our living room chair. Mike awoke, stumbled out the door, to his house next door and climbed into bed with his wife Joyce. She awoke screaming, as she thought another neighbor Tony Kerr, a Russian Immigrant had crawled into bed with her.
There was another story of when He, Sterl, and Brad went to the Jersey Shore with limited funds. After they had started to feel hungry, Brad the leader of the schemes, came up with a good one, and told Buddy and Sterl to play along. They walked up to the front of one of those Pizza Parlors that had pizza sitting out in the open on the counter. Brad asks for the owner or manager, and then proceeds to tell him that he was with the Board of Health and that he was training two new employees, and that having the pizza sitting out in the open was a violation and that he would allow it to slide by this time, but that the restaurant needed to cover it in the future. He then proceeded to say that the pizza smelled delicious, and the owner invited them in for some free pizza.
As a teen he like the rest of us went roller skating at the Villa Roller Rink in Broadway, NJ. It was there when Buddy was 16, that he met a very pretty 15 yr. old young lady named Joan Kline. They started dating, were married in 1961, and had three sons together. They had been married for 43 years at the time of his passing.
He was a loving, and dedicated father, coaching his son's football, and wrestling teams. He taught his sons to hunt and fish. They had gone on many amazing hunting and fishing trips together. When I was the Brown Leader in Alpha, and met my assistant's husband for the first time, he told me that he could remember one Christmas Eve he saw my brother Buddy walking past his home on High Street carrying a bicycle on each shoulder during a blizzard. Buddy had purchased bikes for Buddy Jr. and Craig at Laneco, and took them to our parent's home on Seventh Avenue to assemble them. When the snowstorm became a blizzard on Christmas Eve he couldn't make it by car from his apartment on High Street so he walked about a mile to our parent's home to get those bikes to put under their tree for the boys surprise on Christmas morning.
Buddy was always ready to lend a helping hand, and helped me out many times in my life. He and my sisters helped make my girls holidays special giving them gifts that I could not afford while raising them alone after my divorce. When I remarried in 1993 Buddy gave me away, since my dad had passed in 1985. At his funeral many of his friends commented with tears in their eyes on how special a person my brother was to them.
Buddy was much like our dad, and was creative and industrious. He helped dad with his contraptions like the merry go round and roofing paper pool in our backyard. He also helped build his beautiful Cape Cod home in Alpha, along with his father-in-law, brother-in-law who were builders by trade, and his sons, and anyone willing to lend a helping hand. He bought bricks that were salvaged from Sitgreaves, the elementary school he attended as a child to use in the facade, and fireplace of his home.
Buddy was deep sea fishing with his friends the last few days of his life, and on June 10th shortly after a wonderful dinner of crab, and clams with his family he began to have chest pains. He took a shower, and his son Craig ran him to the emergency room of Warren Hospital. He walked in on his own. His son parked the car. While he was parking the car he had his first heart attack. The doctors revived him. My nephew stood over him, and Buddy told him that he was shocked as the heart surgeon who recently tested his heart gave him a clean bill of health. No sooner than he got those words out, just like that the big one came and they couldn't revive him.
On June 10, 2004, I had just driven the 67 mile commute from work to my house in Hamburg, PA. and changed my cloths, and was lying down when the call came. It was my brother-in-law Tom, who said, "We just lost Walt!" For a moment I did not know who he was talking about, as we always called my brother Buddy. It then sunk in, and I said, "Not Buddy??" He replied, "Yes, Buddy died of a heart attack and if you want to ever see him again you must come up to Warren Hospital right now, because he is being cremated in the morning." Well, I did not want to see my brother in a morgue. The last time I had seen him was at my mother-in-law's funeral a few weeks earlier in May. He was wearing a suit, hugged, me and said I love you. That was how I wanted to remember my last moments with him. I would have never thought at that moment in a funeral home would be the last hug I would get from my brother.
I think that Buddy's passing was so much harder because it came out of the blue, and there was no time to prepare. He also was immediately cremated so we never saw him. All of that coupled with the fact that he was a sibling, a peer, and that really brings home your own mortality. His sudden death makes one really comprehend the urgency of living each day to the fullest.
When we experience the death of someone so close, as a defense mechanism we try to keep it locked up and hidden away in order to cope, but when birthdays, and the anniversary of their passing roll around we visit it, and mourn again.
I am so thankful for all the memories I have of such a wonderful older brother, who was so full of life. He made life more interesting for all who were blessed with his presence. His presence was larger than life, and he will always be with us in spirit.
I so love to remember my dear brother Buddy!