I’m celebrating my 60th birthday with 60 days of gratitude for people in my life. Today, I bring to mind my older brother, Dan who keeps high notes coming and the home fires burning.
I have a few clear memories of childhood play with my brother, Dan, who is just 16 months older than I. As toddlers, we created our world in the dining room with stools, chairs, and blankets. Our playhouse included an upstairs formed by the wooden window seat. That 5’x8’ space between the dining room table and the window was our preschool playspace for doing the important work of three and four year olds.
Dan was also my companion as teenagers riding our bikes across the neighborhood to the Leland Science Center in Dayton, Ohio, where we took a class exploring the Stillwater River. We would take a two-gallon metal bucket with us to collect our river treasures. Dan would hang it from the handlebars of his bike, taking the lead with me close behind. Well, one morning, the bucket got in the way of his turn and he and the bike hit the pavement. I couldn’t stop in time and just ran over his arm with my big balloon tires. Upset and hurting, Dan picked himself up and said, “I’m going home,” and turned around. I don’t remember if we discussed it, but I continued on to the Center, just another quarter mile up the road and went to class by myself. I don’t know that I ever said, “Dan, I’m sorry for running over your arm!”
Dan tried to teach me how to drive his stick-shift truck. Well, that didn’t work! I couldn’t pull the seat up close enough to get solid pressure on that clutch pedal, so guess what? All we did was jerk and stall, jerk and stall each time I tried. So, Dan gave up on that! Well, I am grateful that he tried, and I did eventually learn to drive a clutch well enough to drive a dump truck when I was 25, which is another story!
When I was 17 and considering my options for life after high school, it never occurred to me to stay in my hometown! My view of growing up meant leaving home, getting away from all those younger brothers and sisters, and discovering the World! But Dan must have had a different view because he stayed in Dayton, moved to a house in another neighborhood, had a business installing siding, and years later got a degree in engineering that allowed him to get a desk job. I can’t admit to always being gracious and appreciative of Dan’s choice, being self-righteous and all about my own, but I now appreciate that he and his wife, Anita, are providing a stable home base for my mom and for the extended family. I admire their 10-acre homestead estate with its pond and trees. There’s just something really grounding for me about Dan’s husbandry of the land as he mourns the loss of the half acre ash woods and his efforts to reforest his land. He’ll stay there and keep working on it.
Dan and Anita have a roomy house, so they could take the big oak dining table that my dad refinished 50 years ago. And Dan could accommodate Dad’s massive workbench, making it even better with refinishing. There’s a little tug of the heart strings when I see those symbols of the idea of “home,” and hold them up to my nomadic lifestyle.
But, what I most enjoy about my big brother Dan is that he can hit the most amazing high notes on a trumpet! I have always been proud that my brother Dan was the one, in whichever band he was in, who had the high-note solos! I remember when the first band was starting up in our grade school. I was a little jealous of Dan and my older sister Karen for getting to play band instruments while I stayed with piano. Dan got to go to Band Camp! From my view at the time, that seemed like a really fun thing to do – march around outside all day playing music! I guess I never wanted to do it bad enough to switch instruments, though!
I rarely see him play in one of his several bands now, but when I do it’s simply delightful! I still feel proud that the one hitting the high notes is my brother Dan! So, Dan, I’m grateful to you today for having the fortitude to keep the “home” fires burning, for keeping the happy music flowing, and for hitting those high notes every time!
If you’re in Dayton, Ohio and like jazz band music, go hear my brother Dan hit the high notes with Generations Big Band!