Kitty's brother passed away last night of congestive heart failure. He had been ill for some time and, as he put it, he knew his expiration date had been stamped. Still, it's always a shock when someone you know and love dies. He was 61.
Stephen was the fun-loving brother. He had a great sense of humor, was a fantastic story teller, and was whip-crack smart. For years he lived by the Potomac in Mount Vernon, on land once owned by George Washington. And for years we would shipped our girls with her parents to D.C. for Thanksgiving weekend with him. When Christina was 16 and had her driver's license, she spent the summer as nanny to Stephen's two kids, ages three and five; that was the year when Christina learned patience. Stephen was the one who taught her to drive a stick shift. Both my daughters went to school in the D.C. area and Stephen's became their home away from dorm. Weekends, Stephen would sail his boat up to Washington and take Christina and her college friends on a cruise to Mount Vernon. After graduating, while looking for her first real job Christina lived at Stephen's.
When Stephen's job relocated to the Patuxent River Naval Air Base, he moved his boat to Southern Maryland, living on the boat during the week and commuting to Virginia on the weekends. Yep, the man loved his boats and loved to sail. Later, after his job went belly-up after 25 years, Stephen took early retirement and he and his boat moved to Beaufort, South Carolina -- a place that seemed to call to him.
(It was while visiting Stephen in Southern Maryland that eventually convinced us to move here. We wouldn't go to Beaufort, though -- too darned hot.)
He had a number of health problems the last few years and the burden of those affected him. He was not as carefree as he had been early. There was a pall over him and I wish that it were not so. The Stephen I had known since I was 19 had understandably changed; but the last time I saw him there still vivid flashes of the man I knew, the man of warmth and humor and courage.
He should not have gotten sick. He should have lived a longer and more fulfilled life and, if grandchildren ever came along, he should have been able to enjoy them, teach them to sail, and tell them all sort of stories.
He's gone, dammit, and Kitty and I loved him.