It seems strange to think of him as middle-aged. In my mind, he's forever young. The last birthday he celebrated was his 21st.
In September of 1976, he got behind the wheel after an evening of drinking. With his roommate in the passenger seat, my brother took a sharp turn too fast and rolled his Mustang down an embankment.
He died at the scene. (His roommate survived the accident, but died after several months on life support.)
This is just one part of my family's legacy with alcohol.
I was 14 when the accident happened, a few weeks into my freshman year. On the plus side, I guess, it kept me from experimenting with alcohol throughout high school. (Which is not to say I didn't do some experimenting... just not with alcohol. Proving that even smart kids make dumb choices under the influence of teenage logic.)
My brother was the golden child, everyone's favorite, and his death devastated my family. My parents, already in the midst of an ugly divorce, found new ammunition to use on each other. My three remaining siblings and I coped as well as we could, but our world had gone grey.
His death blasted a gaping hole in our lives, and we've tiptoed around it ever since.
Even now, more than three decades later, I remember his face, his voice, his laugh.
I remember his artistic talent, his athleticism, his musicianship... his impulsiveness... his sense of humor... his temper... his love for the kids on the swim teams he coached.
And I feel cheated of the time.
I still miss you, Rick.