Tuesday, August 4, 2009

15 Years Later

Today marks the 15th Anniversary of Robert's death. Robert was my oldest brother. He died very suddenly when I was 14. He was on his way home from football practice. My brother was only 17 and getting ready to start his senior year of high school. A drunk driver took his life. And in one moment, my family's life was changed forever.

My brother was my sibling that I felt closest to growing up. He and I spent a lot of time together. We always had a special bond. Rob was always looking out for me. Spoiling me with little treats. Like chocolate bars from his work. And the only one that could get away with teasing me.

The morning that he was killed, we fought over the last piece of bacon. Which was very typical of us. And in the end he let me have it. Because that was Rob. We spent the morning talking about high school and all of our plans for the school year. I was going to be a freshman. He gave me all the wisdom of a senior. Told me about the different groups at school. He gave me the scoop on the fun teachers and the really tough ones. How to get a good top locker. We talked about football games and school dances.

Before he left for practice, I made us lunch. We were the only ones home. Our parents were at work. And our younger brother and sister were gone to summer camp. Something we had to do when we were younger. He joked with me that my cooking skills needing to improve before I could find a husband. And he had me laughing hysterically at some jokes.

Before Rob left that day, he grabbed the camera and we snapped some pictures together. He wanted to make sure to have a picture of the 2 of us, to stick in his locker when school started. He wanted to let his friends know that I was off limits. He hugged me tight like he always did and kissed me on the top of my head.

The last words he said to me were, "Love ya Manders! See ya for dinner!" He got in his truck and left our house for the last time. Throwing his football pads in the bed of the truck. I watched his truck drive down the driveway. Dust kicking up as he slowly made his way down the driveway.

Mom and I were the ones that were home when the officers came to tell us about the accident. My dad was picking up my brother and sister on his way home from work. Mom and I were busy making dinner. Rob had wanted to have a BBQ. And that afternoon I had made potato salad, dips, fruit salad, etc. Mom and I were now making hamburger patties and getting the hot dogs ready for the grill.

I will never forget the moment the officer came to our door. He was a State Trooper. The son of one of our neighbors. He asked if he could come inside, then asked us to sit down. My mom grabbed my hand, bracing herself for the news we knew was coming. The moment he said Rob had been in an accident, I knew that he wasn't coming back home. Mom immediately began crying, and I sat there in shock. Dad, my sister, and my brother got home some time after that. I had never seen my dad cry until that day. The day that a truck crossed the double line and hit my brother head on.

After all these years, it is still hard to believe that Rob is gone. He was my big brother. And until that day, he was my #1 buddy. We would do everything together. Camp at grandma and grandpa's together. Play in our tree house. We had a lot of the same friends. We liked the same music. He was my best friend. The guy that taught me to ride my bike in the driveway. The guy who taught me how to ski. The guy who taught me to give, rather than to receive.

I still have wonderful memories of Rob. And those amazing pictures that we took before he went to practice. Pictures that I cherish today. When big things happen in my life, I still find the need to have to tell him. Recently, I went to his grave to let him know that Billy and I are having another baby. Those are the things that I wish we could have shared together.

I look at today as being the anniversary of Rob's life. Not the tragic way in which he died. My brother accomplished so much in his 17 years. He did so much good and improved the lives of so many people around him. My brother was a good man. A man that would give you the last dollar in his pocket, that would take in stray dogs, or help the neighbors take out the trash. I will always remember his big smile. And those big bear hugs!


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