I’ve been thinking a lot of my brother, Steve, lately. This month, my book club took on “No Immediate Threat: The story of an American Veteran,” the book I wrote about his struggles after the Vietnam War.
It was a pleasant surprise when they suggested they read and discuss the book close to Veteran’s Day.
It was especially poignant, as today is the 10th anniversary of his death.
I couldn’t be farther from where I was that cold night back in 1999 when my brother went to sleep for the last time.
I was a new reporter on the school beat for a local daily. My day timer shows that although it was a Saturday, I was busy working, covering a Boy Scouts event. When we learned of Steve’s death 14 months later, I looked at my calendar and actually remembered thinking of my brother while I was at that event the day he died, as he had also been a Boy Scout.
Vietnam changed the Boy Scout and athlete we knew. My brother returned a tormented soul.
In the years that have followed the aftermath of his death, The Little House has played an important part in helping me shed some of the emotional clutter, to find my own sense of peace.
We built The Little House first to escape the madness of our everyday lives, to enjoy the quiet of the woods and stillness of mist covered mornings on the lake.
I think having a place for respite helps calm even the most chaotic of times, and the years following my brother’s death brought many of those. Not only did the gaping hole of his loss need the salve of such a place, but my mother’s health also began to rapidly decline during that time.
As our roles reversed and the inevitable grew closer, The Little House was my hideaway.
One morning not too long after we finished The Little House, we were headed to the lake and “Oh Very Young,” by Cat Stevens came on the radio. My brother loved Cat Stevens and this particular song about leaving this life too soon hit way too close to home. I fell apart at hearing the song, but once I was floating on the calm waters, hearing nothing but the occasional calls of the birds and the fish splashing in the water, my mind found peace once again.
The final chapters of the book about his life were even written on the covered front porch during an unseasonably cool long weekend over July 4 in 2005. The book wasn’t easy to write or finish, but I did it in the most tranquil of settings. I don’t know if I could have done it in any other place.
Of course, this anniversary was on my mind last night. As I sat down on the sofa, another song my brother loved, “The Sultans of Swing,” by Dire Straights, came on the Sirius satellite radio. Although most of the good times we shared are decades in the past, songs especially, will jar my mind and I can still see him singing along, feel his energy, picture his smile. That will either bring a smile to mine, or tears.
I escaped to the deck and sat gazing at the multitude of stars we can still see in the country, and I finally realized the peace I feel when I allow myself to take in the wonders surrounding The Little House is my brother. He is always with me and so is also now part of nature, the lake, and the stars.
Together, we’ve both found our peace here.
Please hop over to My Faith Project, where I write more on Steve.