(note: I wrote this on Dave’s birthday; I wanted to wait a day or two before sharing with you all)
The “Campbell Kids” poster was hung up again amongst the Christmas decorations. This poster was already showing its age by the time Dave turned 16. Yellowing tape earnestly trying to keep the edges from tearing any further. Staple holes pock marked the sides from years of being jammed to the wall, and we were thrilled. It was Dave’s birthday! Any birthday was always an excuse for a grand celebration. Dani’s fell amongst Thanksgiving. Mine was a few days before Halloween. Tim’s was a hit and miss adventure with Easter and Jim’s, it brightened up an otherwise yucky time of the year. His was caught in the first few weeks of school and the marking of the end of summer. But Dave’s was special. His came a week after Dani’s. The house was always fully decorated for Christmas (except for the tree, because Santa always brought that), and Christmas music bounced off every nook and cranny of the house until it was interrupted by the official Martin non-copyright infringement version of the birthday song. If there is a definition of hellacious, then our rendition fit the bill… on purpose!
My mom was of Scottish ancestry and she could squeeze a dime out of a nickel, and there was no way she was going to get caught paying royalty fees for singing a song. Actually, I believe it all started on this particular birthday. I was 13; Jim was 11 and Tim a mere 3 years old. Dani was not around, this time. When it came time to sing the birthday song to our older brother with a girlfriend present, there was no more perfect time to reveal our annoying, obnoxious younger brother traits then at this occasion. It was harmonious dissonance that set a new tradition, and set the bar for a new level of irritation and embarrassment for Dave by his younger brothers. Score!
Today, I miss singing that song.
There’s a lot I’m discovering since his death that I’m missing. Besides the phone call on occasion; it’s more the shared memories that we had. I miss the fact that those days are now over. The memories I have of Dave now are all I’ll ever have. No more. And I dare not want to forget any of them. The words of mom are ringing more truly in my ears than ever before: “You’ll thank me later for this.”
There is one particular memory that encompasses my teen years with Dave. You see; Dave was a mechanic; I am not. Dave loved cars; I love bicycles. Dave loved to read; I can hardly sit still.
Mom used to firmly suggest that I go down into the garage and help Dave work on the cars. “Go down to the garage and help your brother. You’ll thank me later for this”, she used to say. At the time, I thought mom had some kind of vendetta out for me. Being sent to the garage to work on cars with Dave was like walking down the dark foreboding staircase to a torture chamber. One may have a fascination about the machines and tools found in a torture chamber, but then there’s the reality….
So, as a kid, I’d say, “Really mom? Do you like me?”, but there was the strange attraction of working with the tools. Then you’d remember…these tools only worked with certain vocabulary words, and certain parts of the car only responded to certain vocabulary words. Going to the garage was actually like going to an English class (Torture Chamber, English Class… one and the same!). I should’ve received credit for all the years I spent at the University of Dave. I expanded my vocabulary 10 fold each time I attended class. I learned inflection lent different meanings to a single word. The value of emphasis on certain syllables gave a great impact on delivery. Imagery and synonyms were regular staples in his classroom. The full versatility of the English language was expressed while replacing a clutch in a VW. Throw on top of all this the mere fact that Dave and I were complete opposites; it made for a pre-screening of Orange County Choppers.
There are a myriad of stories that came out of that classroom called the garage. And mom was right. I do thank her for telling me to spend time with Dave. Even though we were teenagers and knuckleheads with each other at the time, we were first and foremost: brothers. How can I ever repay Dave for developing my versatility with the English language and my knowledge of auto mechanics? I can’t, so I’ll invest in the lasting memories of working on cars with Dave, and these are memories I don’t want to forget.