I have found the older I get, the more I reflect and become nostalgic. I guess it is a right of passage with age, one seems to think back upon life and it's lessons, and fond memories. The things that the really matter. As a child I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood that I recall as being a "Leave it to Beaver" type place. Kids were kids, they hung out in the backyard all day, even into the night, they liked to get dirty. We played guns (and didn't shoot up schools or even threaten to do so), we played ghost in the graveyard (and didn't even think about crime rates), we stayed gone all day (and parents didn't worry), we played football and basketball-even Barbie's. We played together and we fought like brothers and sisters. We were a family in every sense of the word. We could depend on one another for anything.
Almost all the neighbors that I grew up with have grown up and moved on, their parents (most of them) selling their homes for a fresh start after the nest was empty. But we all continue to keep in touch, beyond the occasional Christmas card, just as families do. We still genuinely love and care for one another. Even those that are no longer with us.
Brad Hefner. I cannot help but smile when I mention his name. He always had the biggest smile on his face. And that wave! It was as though he knew someone would be outside, when he would drive by on his bicycle and in later years in his car. He'd be waving from a mile away, continuing to wave until long out of sight. His laughter was contagious, as was his infectious sense of humor. He had this gorgeous head of red hair that was thick and cut just so. His nickname was "Flare" because of the hair. He was everyone's friend. Everybody adored Brad.
There are mounds of memories about Brad, most all of them, if not all, would allow much laughter. My favorite memory was more serious. It was 1990 and I had just given birth a day earlier to my first son. I was a young, 19 years old (I turned 20, 3 days later). For whatever reason, I was alone at the time in the hospital, feeling all sorts of emotions.....elation, happiness, tremendous love, fear , insecurity and nervousness.....and in walked Brad with that enormous smile. He was working construction close to the hospital and had taken his lunch break on that hot August day to check in with me and my new son. I cannot even recall what we talked about on that day, it really didn't even matter. He was just there to lend his support and welcome "a new family member" into the neighborhood. I recall together watching a fierce thunderstorm that had come in after he arrived. We marveled at it's power and enjoyed each other's company in the comfort of my hospital room. When he left, I felt such a peace. He believed in me. He knew I could do this "parent thing", and he said it with such promise. I began to believed it too.
A year and a half later on November 22, my friend Brad drowned in a boating accident. It was tragic. A day that will live forever on in my memory. It was a day that some of the laughter died-or so I thought.
All of the neighborhood family rallied together. We shared stories about Brad as we went through the grieving process together. But not one of us could really talk about him without recalling a funny memory. Like the time he raced downhill in the street on his to small bicycle yelling (for whatever reason) "Auntie Em, Auntie Em! It's a twister! It's a twister!". The tires on the bicycle shot out sparks as he flew by before the tires burst and he crashed. He still got up laughing...Or the time he would sneak out of his parents house, putting his car in neutral and allowing it too to roll downhill before cranking it over. And the time he snuck over to my house, woke me up in bed to come out and talk to him and another neighbor, Randall. They had been out parting and had stopped by to shoot the breeze. I let my doberman, Tesla out after them when they began to make to much noise. I feared my dad would get woken up. You didn't wake dad or there would be trouble. They ran and did a "Bo Duke slide" across the hood of the car to get into the car before Tesla reached them. The laughed wildly and waved goodbye as they topped the hill. So many fond memories......
Boy, was I wrong! The laughter did not die. Brad's memory lingers on...he still makes me and so many others laugh. As much today as he did then. The thought of him still warms my heart, for I know that he continues to live in all who knew him. About a year ago my former neighborhood had a reunion----much of the reflection involved Brad and the joy he gave to us. What a gift to leave behind to the world-the gift of joy and laughter that remains for many lifetimes. I can only hope I could give that to the world. Brad, you are sorely missed, but never forgotten.
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