Friday, July 10, 2009


The scarcely perceptible ringing of the bell echoed both with possibility and probable disappointment. Grandma was no easy touch. What kind of a hoax would send the ice cream truck clanging so soon after dinner? The slightly watery jello couldn’t be considered in the same category with a dessert as scrumptious as Mr. Frosty. Excitement and anticipation won out over fear as my brother and I raced in doors to ask, as sweetly as possible, for the monumental sum of .25 each. To our complete wonderment, Grandma reached into her change jar, and handed my more responsible older brother the change we needed to obtain our frozen treats. Glory be! Our little legs raced as quickly as we could, afraid that we would arrive at the curb too late to flag down the truck. My brother, at the mature age of seven, ordered for us both. I can still feel the glee of watching the frozen concoction swirl into the awaiting wafer cone. The filling was completed by a masterful twisting of the wrist, resulting in a curly-cue at the very tip: that was my favorite part of the whole confection! My brother carefully handed his little brother the first of the cones, and I devoured the beloved curly-cue before my brother was even handed his. Oh, the simple pleasure of an ice cream cone on a steamy summer evening. Life was oh so good.
My brother suggested eating our treats in the backyard of my Grandmas place. With a mouthful of glee, I grunted my assent.

And then it happened. Not four slurps into a Mr. Frosty from heaven, I stubbed my toe and proceeded to throw the entire contents of the cone into the soil of a nearby flower bed. I stood, wide eyed with disbelief, staring at first the empty wafer cone in my hand, and then at my brother whose eyes were nearly as big as mine. In the heat of this steamy evening, the ice cream began puddling on contact. I almost immediately became aware of the now distant bell of the departing truck. All hope of devouring the rare treat was melting faster than the dwindling heap of vanilla that was rapidly becoming mud.

There are moments that you simply remember for your entire life. They are for most people not grand occurrences. They are simply times when something that happens seems to open something within you that will never again be closed. This was one of those moments in my life. Without a single word, my brother handed me his full ice cream cone, removing the empty one from my tiny quivering hand. I was completely shocked. The feelings I felt within my heart I feel to this day. It had so little to do with the sharing of a Mr. Frosty, and everything to do with the unassuming and splendidly generous act of one brother for another. In that moment, he became my hero of heroes. He gave to me something that no one could ever take away. He demonstrated for me, at the tender age of five, what it is like to give love with no thought of return or reward. I knew then that no matter what happened in my life, my big brother would always be right there for me. I knew that many people would come and go from my life, but that he would stay. He would truly stay.

Many things have happened to us both these many intervening years. I have figuratively dropped many ice cream cones into the dirt, and I have experienced many less than splendid acts at the hands of others. My big brother and I have led very, very different lives, and it has been many years since we have shared a geographic region. On the rare times when we are physically together, the bond of love always transcends our differences. He has remained my hero, though many might describe the surface of his life as far less than spectacular. While I have gone on to enjoy many adventures and accolades, he quietly went about his life in his simple and humble way. He has continued to give to others, even though many deemed his giving as foolish or insane. The accompanying photo to this blog was the result of the one plane trip he ever took. He came to visit his little brother, and to see the new house I had recently purchased. During that week, he even bought me an ice cream cone, which we shared as quietly as we had the one so many years before. It was perhaps more delicious than the first.

And now, something has been triggered in the brain of my hero, and he has begun to slowly fade away. Though I knew he would be the one to always stay, he has started the gradual descent from me and from this world. I miss him, even when we are together. So much is gone, and yet that fabulous big heart still remains. Though so many details are now fuzzy for him, the love in his eyes is as clear as ever. Even in the searing pain of watching him depart, he remains my hero. That one, simple act of loving generosity will be with me my entire life. The love of my brother will remain my forever embrace. One simple act. From one simple man. A stunning and stirring memory that I pray I have somehow paid forward.

Thanks, Craig, and Happy birthday, big brother.