I rarely discuss my private life on my blog, but I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to my brother who passed unexpectedly sometime in July in Wasilla, Alaska.
From an early age, he loved nature. He used to catch trout with his hands up at our family cabin. We would wander the forest together. When we were little, we spent sometimes two to three weeks up there, hiking around the wilderness area, playing with our toys, and exploring. We would jump from big rock to big rock and play tag. Later, in the winter time when we snowmobiled, we would sled down the big mountain behind the cabin with our cousins Tim and Casey. I was always the only girl even in our neighborhood and family, so I became the sidekick that no one really wanted around. After all, I was the girl. We also tied the sleds behind the snowmobiles and got dragged around the back meadow. It was a lot of fun. In the summer months, John and I would follow the creeks all the way to the spring mostly out of curiosity. Once we hiked for what seemed like miles to find the source of the cabin water supply all the way up the mountain. Since the cabin was already at some the 8,500-foot elevation, we tired easily but trudged to the top to find the little trickle of the source of the water. It was anticlimactic, but interesting. We hiked everywhere and got to the know the countryside as well as anyone might know every inch of their backyards. He would tirelessly hike down the front of the mountain and into the meadows below. Once we ran into a porcupine, and I don't know why it stands out, but it does.
My family also named a small mountain in front of the cabin, "Scroungy," and it became an annual obsession to plead and beg to hike to the top of it. After all, it sat right in our view from the deck, calling to us like a true siren to the real "rocks." So when we were older probably around ages 10 and 12 respectively, we tackled the Scroungy climb, which was so strange to me. The mountain looked really rugged and just crumbling even from through the binoculars, but when you actually climbed it, it was huge boulders mixed with big rocks and rocky soil. It didn't look at all the same up close. We also hiked to Lower Relief Reservoir any number of times. John didn't mind the cold water at all and would plunge right in for a swim. In fact, cold never bothered him the same way it did me; hence, the ruggedness and fortitude that drew him up to Alaska. I could never get through a cold winter up in Alaska, but never once did I hear a single complaint from him.
When we became teenagers, he loved to swim and ran long-distance track. I don't know if he was good at it or not, but when he passed his friend Nord reflected how fast he could run. No surprise. He was 6'5" -- a tall, tall guy. My son Cole will be as tall as his uncle. In his teens, he was lanky and grew so fast his poor body couldn't begin to keep up. And then he started eating to maintain. Oh, man he could put the food down and want more just seconds later. I was never a big eater, so it wasn't a competition to get food before he ate it all.
The teenage years became more difficult, and eventually we became estranged, but not after spending a few good years, playing around together. He didn't like his friends flirting with me, and I saw his protective instincts come out. We would also go to the midnight movies together and see Rocky Horror Picture Show and sometimes go out dancing. But over time, our lives and interests parted us. If you would have met him as an adult and met me you wouldn't make the connection. We couldn't have been more different. He never married and he left behind no children, which I suppose is good in the way that he didn't leave a widow and fatherless children. I understand he ended up as a manager of seafood and meat in Safeway. I don't know if he liked his job; but I do know he loved the great outdoors more than he loved anything else. He died in the great outdoors, and I feel some comfort in knowing at least he died in the place that he spent all of his adult life, and for that, I am grateful.
I don't want to reflect on "the why" anymore. It's too painful to think about. I just like the idea that now he is the great mountain man, exploring the vast land of the Universe and fishing for endless salmon, trout, and blue gill (his "starter" fish). Here's to you mountain man! May you rest in peace!