Really sick of this.

IMG_1844MOU0016456-1_20120515The other day, my mom called me pretty late. It’s never good when there’s a too-late call. Apparently, my aunt Kathy was in a bad way health-wise, and passed. I cried. I didn’t even know her health was going south until about a week ago. She was the one relative that would make an effort to call and write on a regular basis. She kept me in practice, and taught Henry what writing old-school ‘pen-on-paper’ snail-mail letters even were. I reckon she’ll be the last person I exchange those old “written letters” with. She would call and write so regularly, I actually noticed when it had been a few weeks. I was wondering what I said. She would complain a lot that I didn’t write her back often enough, so I sent 2 or 3 to her for those last few weeks with no response. Then I found out why. I sure hope she got the last one at least. We gave her one of Henry’s first school pictures. One in which his hair looks particularly ginger. I’ll not only miss Kathy, but I’ll really feel her absence in my day-to-day. She was to me as Ronda is to Henry. Sort of my nanny who helped raise me when my folks were at work. She was quirky. For example you almost never see her without a camera. She must have taken a billion pictures. It annoyed some folks. I only thought how I’d like to see where she stashes her billion pictures. She never did go digital. Anyway. Goodbye, Kathy. I’ll miss you. “Say Sour Cream!”

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And on that note, I should say why I haven’t exactly felt like posting for well over a year. It’s because on Valentine’s Day 2011, my only sibling, older brother, and best friend, Andy Walker died. And this right on the heels of having found out a really good ol’ friend, Shane Barney died. I was a pretty lousy friend because I didn’t keep up with Shane for the prior few years, but felt close enough that I had every intention of just calling him up and catching up again. It’s a bummer that now I can’t.

So I haven’t blogged much because I really don’t feel like going there again, and I could write a very, very long one on just what Andy was to me. So I’m going to sum it up with the Eulogy I said at his funeral. It was quite a task and a little slice of hell. Having to clean out his room. (If I didn’t during that brief trip home for his funeral, it would have never gotten cleaned out. My folks don’t exactly have the backs for heavy work). Then having to try to give a eulogy, summing up all he’s meant to me in a short speech. Pretty impossible. Then having to play the pipes a couple times. All without breaking down. Well I managed to somewhat pull it off. Some said I did pretty good. In fact I remember beginning to read my words, then just saying in my head, ‘screw this reading, I pretty much know what I wrote’. It flowed alot better after that. Felt like I was speaking from the heart more. Which I was. So my good friend Rob, at the graveside, let me have a few hits of his flask. It was a most welcome comic relief when we just finished the service, he approached, reached in his coat, and pulled out a flask shaped just like a cell phone and said, “Call for you.” We then found out ol’ Shane Barney was just a few yards away. So John, Rob, and I took a few moments to “Go say hi”.

Anyway, that has all been well over a year ago. And I just now feel capable of logging it in anyway. The following is my eulogy:

“One of the first things I think of about Andy is how much he knew,
how smart and ahead of the curve he always was, and how much he
taught me as a kid. He was almost freakishly smart.
I think he was just born knowing stuff. Being the first born, he had no
older brother to teach him the things he was teaching me by the time
I came out of the womb. Things like how cool “Planet of the Apes”
and “Space 1999″ was. He taught me how to make traps for bugs
and some licks at photography. I even remember him driving our
grandpa’s tractor as far back as I remember. And he wasn’t THAT
much older than me. I’m still no good with a manual transmission.
As kids, he introduced me.. and even our parents… to Friday night’s
“Nightmare Theater” on Channel 20, and “Doctor Demento”. I don’t
know where he got this stuff. It was like he was just seeded here by
aliens. I guess perhaps his uncle Jerry and cousin Kip may have had
a hand in some of that, I’m not sure.
And ‘Doctor Demento’ brings back a flood of memories of being kids.
Many late weekend-nights with our cousins, Steve and Dave. Steve
and Andy would always team up to see just how punishing they could
make this weeks’ flavor of torture for me and Dave. Many nights Andy
and Steve would walk in the house with their triumphant smirk,
followed shortly by their barely-recognizable younger brothers,
reeking from our plastering of rotten tomatoes, and covered in cat-tail
fluff. I attribute our tar-and-featherings from the masterminding of my
brother, who, at that age, should have been just graduating from
Sesame Street to G.I. Joes.
The dude was a genius. I know that’s the usual kind of ‘bla bla’ that
most people like to say in every loved one’s eulogy, or what parents
always say about their own kid, but Andy, ..there was just something
that most everybody who would cross paths with him would say..
‘man.. that guy is different. He’s sharp!’ I’m convinced was some kind
of off-the-charts genius. Somewhat of the evil scientist variety, but
genius, none-the-less. He was extremely artistic. I tried to follow the
way he could draw, but never nailed that edge he had. While I was
still drawing pictures of mommy and daddy and our house, he was
drawing rather explicit depictions of characters from the ‘Aliens’ novel
he just read, meeting their demise. And funny. He knew how to put
anyone in stitches.
I have alot of memories of camping with the extended family, and he
driving off on my grandpa’s little trail 90 motorcycle, with me on the
back. He would drive straight up a sheer 90 degree cliff with me
hanging vertically off the back by my grip on his waist, us going
around a tight bend on a mountain pass to find ourselves staring off
with an angry-looking bull who begin to stamp his hoof. I only thought
they did that in cartoons until Andy showed me otherwise. And him
looking at a flooded-out rural road with the colorado rapids going
through the middle. He would look over his shoulder at me and say,
‘hold on’. Next thing he’s pinned underwater by his semi-conscious
brother.
He didn’t play by the rules as we all know. School was too mundane
for a kid who was speed-reading Robert Howard ‘Conan’ and ‘Dune’
novels by the fifth grade. And he felt no compunction to play the
game. By high school, he was nothing short of a thorn in my parent’s
side. Conspiring with his nair-do-well friends and Cousins, like Ren
Shore, not just trying to fit in with a punk rock social scene, but
creating one. I remember difficult, but, oh so colorful moments
between he and my dad. Moments where dad would find pillows
stuffed under his bed covers and his window wide open. Somehow
my dad figured out where to find him and pulled him off a barstool..
by his ear… when he was in the middle of getting his mojo on with
considerably older but attractive women. I think he was like 17. I think
at some point that night my dad hurled him across the living room
with one arm. Andy and I would laugh for years to come as he would
relay the experience of flying across the living room in slow motion.
Though he was known to sort of… have an aversion to good decisionmaking,
there was definitely a part of me that always admired his
style, and his guts. He was not only cool in my eyes, but he sort of
defined cool. Gave it new definitions. He didn’t follow what was cool
and trendy, he just did his own thing. And it came off as beyond cool.
You see in Sandy and West Valley Utah circa 1986-ish, having 3-feet
of spiked-straight-up hair, earrings, and eyeliner… tended to be an
invitation…in neon… for possés to come beat him up. Consequently,
he was never at a loss of completely crazy stories of getting into
scraps in a public restrooms with his pants around his ankles, or
narrow escapes from skinheads and being rescued by bikers, etc.
And every time I would start becoming convinced he was greatly
embellishing his tales, which was often, I would meet somebody who
would corroborate one of his tales. It became a point of pride in more
recent life for me to tell my friends in Texas.. “you see that movie SLC
punk? Based on real life. Those were all dudes my brother ran with.”
So while I was spending my youth doing my homework and catching
all the reruns of ‘Gidget’, he was spending his youth, that in my mind,
resembled an adventure-crammed ‘John Hughes-meets-the Sex
Pistols’ movie. I only wish there was a more definitive record of the
many unbelievable, yet true, tales he would regale me with.
And even though there was the expected tumult in the home growing
up, there was always that undertone of love and joy. The love and joy
were always there no matter what the immediate situation. My folks
knew he loved them. And Andy always knew they always loved him.
We were pretty opposite, he and I. I would channel my efforts in good
grades and winning the game. He would throw the game out the
window. We were pretty segregated after childhood for awhile. He
was busy being wild while I was busy doing my best. And even
though we were so different, and his job description earlier in life was
little-brother-torturer, we had a beautiful coming together in
adulthood. Back in High School days, he was too cool for school and
the kids I ran with.. but it really really warms my heart to know that
since those times, we’d become best friends. My mother told me
that’s how it would be. She told me, back when Andy and I were
pretty much arch enemies, that we would one day be best friends.
Because friends tend to ebb and flow, and come and go. But Andy is
family. He’ll always be there, and I’m stuck with him for a brother
whether I like it or not. And some day we’ll have memories and grow
closer. She was absolutely right.
All the while I totally was admiring his strength to rebel, his rock-star
approach to things. He taught me so much, and influenced so much
of what I like now. As our cousin Ryan said, “I’ll never be able to
enjoy a comic book or bad b-movie quite the same”. Same definately
goes for me. My fanhood of Mystery Science Theater and Hammer
films, as well as a good portion of my tastes in classic punk rock, can
be all accredited to my brother Andy.
For the last few years, we had just started a tradition of him coming
down by himself and visiting me and my wife and kid in Dallas every
October for a couple weeks. That was a hard-sell to the wife at first.
But she confided in me… quite honestly.. after his first visit… ‘you
know, I miss him already. I really, really enjoyed his company.’ And
that was the same review all my friends would give after he would hit
a concert or Halloween party with our friends. He is just plain likable.
I have seen him as a great, loving, caring father. But now I got to
know Andy as a great Uncle that my son Henry became so crazy
about.
He would even put on the ridiculous costumes we designated for him
at those last few Halloween parties. I was Doctor Who, and he was K-
9 the robot dog. Last year I was Thor, and he was the trickster Loki.
Even when he sometimes would have trouble with the increasingly
difficult (in today’s times) art of being happy, I’m pleased to say that
we all had some genuinely great visits down in Texas where he would
be a pretty darn happy Andy. And we grew ever closer, opening up
and talking about everything for hours into the late nights.
Came to find out to my shock and disbelief that he secretly admired
my good grades, marching in bagpipe bands, and church-attendance;
all the while I was secretly envious of his raw charisma and rebel
ways.
But there was so much more to him than image and pop culture. In
spite of his rock star persona, he was deep. We eventually learned
how to have the longest, deepest discussions, often deep into the
night on our back porch. Usually politics and theology, all the taboos.
And especially now, it is my greatest comfort to know he was sold on
the message and deity of Christ the Lord. His life tended to be
fragmented. And unfortunately, he could not put the pieces together
in a perfect way, (who can) but I have no doubt that Christ made his
life better. He’s confided that in me. It’s like how C.S. Lewis compares
Jesus to tooth paste. He says the British brush and floss every day.
Their teeth still look horrible. Genetically. But can you imagine what
they’d look like if they didn’t brush every day? There wouldn’t BE any
teeth. So even though Andy’s life wasn’t the picture of church-going
Joe, I know he had a very real, very unique relationship with the Lord
at his core.
That is what gives me the comfort and assurance that this isn’t it. This
isn’t the end. I fully expect to see him again some day. Andy told me
that earlier in life, he was of the Agnostic persuasion. But upon
investigating the profundity of the mission of Jesus, couldn’t deny that
the Lord’s message is a double-edge sword. A truth that you can’t
back away from. Christ never gave us the option of labeling him as a
mere good teacher. Because He also claimed to be the Way to
heaven. The atonement for our sins. So he was either full of it. Or
perhaps insane. Or it’s truth. Andy came to realize this is why Jesus
was a monkey wrench in all other world systems and theosophies,
that withstands scrutiny. That He probably would not have endured
the cross if there are, in fact, other paths to God. These things are
what we would talk about with complete openness, and no
censorship. He came to accept that life-changing message, as I have.
And that is why I’m assured I’ll be seeing Andy again. Death is not
being snuffed out. But passing on to meet the Way to Heaven. And
when I see Andy again… I’ll give him a good slap. A slap for bowing
out early. Not that it was intentional. Just that he’s experienced and
learned all he was supposed to I guess. He always was ahead of the
curve. Then I’ll hug him. I love you Andy. We all do.”

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This was all not long after my grandma Naomi died. She had been in pain, and was in a bad way for some time before, so it was no big shock when she went. She will be missed, nonetheless.

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And not too long ago, my last grandparent, grandma Patra died. She too was pretty long in the tooth, but I will always miss her short, sometimes a bit absent-minded, always sweet and giving, self. I have to admit I had to dig down and think a little for some of the chronology of this entire entry. The last year and half has been a bit of a blur of death for me. I wouldn’t take them back or anything, there’s still all the good times with my great wife and kid, but it’s been a pretty rough ride in many ways as well.