The summer of 1976 was nearing an end and it had been a particularly hot and dry summer as best I remember it.
Posted on 8/31/13
By Lee Coleman
I was set to go off to college in the fall and needed a job. My grandfather was a master builder and told my parents he thought it was a jolly good idea for his grandson to spend the entire summer working as a ‘gopher’ on his dang construction site.
Sorry, but, my idea of how to spend that summer had absolutely nothing to do with constructing a medical building and all the dirty chores that came with my job description.
It had everything to do with going swimming at the city pool where I was the reigning high dive cannonball champion.
Throw in some fishing and nights at our drive-in movie and that had the makings of a great summer complete with a part-time job hustling ice cream at the Dairy Queen.
I worked hard to formulate that plan but for some odd reason, my parents turned into jellyfish and were greatly influenced by my grandfather’s wishes.
Augh. Let’s just call it home cooking with a big old heaping handful of salt peter mixed with a dash of humility just for giggles.
Confucius say good things happen to leather-skinned boy with many cuts and bruises before he go to college.
You see, today marks another anniversary of the passing of my little brother Mark who was suddenly taken from us without any warning.
After an arthroscopic procedure to clean out some debris in his knee, Mark’s heart got out of rhythm in recovery and 12 days and a life-flight back to the hospital later, he was gone.
Unable to understand why God had picked Mark that fateful day, I thought back to a conversation I had with a pastor some years ago about dying and what would be said in an eulogy.
The answer was simple. The pastor wouldn’t preach the eulogy, the deceased would by the way he lived his life everyday.
Mark lived his to the fullest.
During the summer of my construction job, Mark played summer baseball and was growing fond of girls. Needing a car to date, he asked me if I could help him.
He found a Chevy Impala and I gave him $600 to buy it. Seeing the joy on his face was worth every penny.
After getting his car and a real cute girlfriend, Mark decided it was time for him to look more like a professional baseball player and wanted to chew himself some tobacco.
I always tried to be a good older brother and not do too many mean things to him.
Unfortunately for Mark, the rules of being a big brother required me to to be a rascal on occasion.
He bought a bag of Redman Chewing Tobacco and came to me for instruction.
Oh boy, oh boy.
His first mistake was asking me how to chew it. His second mistake was believing what I told him.
I could not resist. I was obligated.
I told him to put a wad inside a piece of bubble gum and as soon as he got on the mound to pitch, I told him to start chewing it real fast and swallow the juice.
For the first few minutes, he was wearing it out. Chomp. chomp, chomp. Then, the big wad in his cheek disappeared.
Suddenly, he stopped in the middle of his windup and with his new girlfriend screaming,” You can do it. You can do it,” Mark leaned over and clutched his knees.
Gathering himself, he stood up and a 40-foot spew of upset stomach ensued.
He shared his queasiness with all of us. I slept with my eyes open for weeks after that one.
Now when I sleep, the memories of little brother appear vividly. I’m glad they come.
I’m glad Mark was here and that I was able to be his brother.
Coleman is the editor of the Republican and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.