Growing up with a brother nine years my junior was not a pleasant experience. Seems he was always getting in the way. Always looking for attention from his big brother and not getting it. His pay back was to snitch on me for doing things I should not be doing but should have gotten away with. My pay back was to further alienate him from my life. Danny, I’m sorry, I wish I had those days back. I have wished so many times I could have a “do over.”
The month of July was a turning point in so many ways in the lives of every member of my family Danny came home on his last 30 day annual leave before entering his final year in the Navy. The start of a celebration; counting down the days until he was a “short timer”. A time of being with his family, his friends, his car, and his turning 20 years old on the 10th of July. This was the time of good memories. The week or so I was able to spend up north, not with my pain in the ass little brother, but rather Danny the man who had grown up without me knowing it was great; Much to my surprise, I even liked him, and respected him for his contribution in serving in the military like his father (Air Force), brother John (Marines), and me (Army).
My short time with him was spent having some brewfull and herbal good, fun times. We went fishing back on Wiergor lake, when a storm came out of nowhere with some nasty straight fine winds that just about capsized the canoe we were in and pushed us from the middle of the lake to the shore in what seemed like about 30 seconds. We sat under the canoe propped up with the paddles, popped open a couple of cans of beer and indulged in a bit of herbal libation. At that point the’ storm we just went through seemed quite funny.
My last memory of Danny was captured on film. I took a photo of my daughter Gwen, at the time just 3 years old, on Danny’s lap sitting on the swing in the front of yard of the house where I now live. A swing put up in an old Box Elder tree by our Grandfather. The 150 year old tree finally gave in to time. The limb holding the swing broke off about 10 years ago. I let the rest of the tree fall apart on its own. The tree is now totally gone, but not the memories. They will be with me forever.
The 24th of July 1975 was the last of the good times, the last of the fun times, and the last time anyone, family or friend, would see or speak to Danny. He left in his car headed to San Diego, Ca. little did anyone know or conceive the events that would follow his departure. Within a day Danny was dead. His life taken by a still unknown person, (I have used other terms to describe this “person” but they are not suitable for print).
The pain felt by my family continues. At times the pain brought our family together and in some respects it simply tore us apart. I cannot speak for other members of my family because we all carry our cross different ways My father started drinking more. My mother seemed to sort of shut down, it was the beginning of me alienating myself from my wife and daughter.
A couple days before Thanksgiving Day in 1975 I received a call from a member of the North St Paul police dept informing me that Danny’s body had been found. I was at work taking calls like any other day. This for me was the beginning of a lot of “not just like any other days” phone calls. I started crying in front of everyone in the office that day and in some respects I have never stopped; I think I know why there are “grief counselors”. We could have used them 37 years ago. We miss you Danny!