Sitting in bed, about to fall asleep and I stumble upon the movie Stand by Me. One of the few movies I still own on VHS and one that helped to define much of my childhood. To be honest, I don’t believe I have a way to watch any of the movies I own on VHS. Does anyone anymore? I guess I could always sell my collection of VHS movies in the next neighborhood garage sale, but the 50 cents that I would make off of each tape is not equal to the memories and lessons they have provided me. So, for now, they will sit in a box in the garage till VHS becomes cool again. It’s only a matter of time, right?
I sat up in bed and started to watch the movie right about the time the boys discovered the leaches and Gordie passes out after finding one in his underwear. If you know the movie, you know where they are at in their journey.
For me, one of the best things about Stand by Me is that I can relate to all of the main characters. The innocence of Vern. The oddness and troubled darkness of Teddy. The potential of Chris and the struggle of Gordie. I am all four of these kids wrapped into one. Like a cocktail of prepubescent teenage boys, from a coming of age movie released in 1986, living in the body of a forty-two year old man. A grown man, who has figured out so much in life, but still has so much to learn. A man that can’t hear the song “Everyday” by Buddy Holly without tearing up just a little. I’ve heard thousands of songs in my lifetime, but none more perfect in its simplicity and message. Among many things, this movie helped to fuel my appreciation of Buddy Holly.
The writer VO from the movie: “I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959-a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years. I was living in a small town in Oregon called Castle Rock. There were only twelve hundred and eighty-one people. But to me, it was the whole world”.
September 30th 1987, I sat on the bus, about five rows back from the front, next to my younger brother Jimmy and we counted the deer we saw on the way to school. I believe the total number was seventeen by the time we got to the elementary school where he got off. It was about a 20 mile bus ride from pickup to drop off and we traveled down many county roads picking up kids from age five to eighteen. We went to a small school in the Hill Country of Texas and kindergarten through high school seniors rode the same bus. The population of my hometown at this time in my life was around 932 people. I rode the bus to school almost every day, for the exception of the last 2 weeks of my senior year, when I finally had a working (somewhat working) vehicle to take me to school.
Jimmy got off the bus, turned around and waved goodbye. That was the last time I saw him alive. Less than 12 hours later, he would die in a car accident. I never really talked about counting the deer before or that he did something different that morning. You see, instead of getting off the bus and running straight to school, like he always did, this time he turned around and waved goodbye. As if he knew something that I didn’t. I guess we’ll never really know what compelled him to wave goodbye to me that morning, but as we creep closer to the 30th anniversary of his death, I’ve been thinking a lot about my little brother and how the world sometimes shows you things that you don’t comprehend till years later. Maybe Jimmy didn’t wave goodbye to Michael that day because the universe knew they would be together again before I would have my moment to join them? Maybe it was just a coincidence. Regardless, moments like this make you wonder about certain things.
The writer VO from the movie: “The freight woke up the other guys and it was on the tip of my tongue to tell them about the deer. But I didn’t. That was the one thing I kept to myself. I’ve never spoken or written about it until just now”.
In the movie, Gordie’s older brother Denny, played by a young John Cusack, had died and Gordie was forced to deal with mortality and the gravity that comes with losing a sibling at such a young age. Gordie and I were roughly the same age and even though our circumstances were different (Gordie lost his older brother, while I lost my younger brother), the life experience that comes with dealing with such a loss carries the same amount of weight. Later in life, when I lost my older brother Michael, the movie spoke to me in a different way. The way Denny treated Gordie was very similar to the way Michael treated me. Always encouraging. Always looking out for me. Always believing in my abilities.
The four boys were on the same journey, but each learned something different in the process. Vern, Teddy, Chris and Gordie set out to discover the lifeless body of Ray Brower, a kid none of them ever met, and become heroes. This was the same age that I saw my first dead body, but for me it was a kid that I shared a bunk bed and a last name with.
Our brains are filled with little life events that are uniquely ours. Bus rides counting deer with Jimmy or the simple words of encouragement from an older brother. No true reason to share and with no real value to anyone besides us. I think of Jimmy every day and his class picture has been in my wallet for the past 30 years. Another thing that would mean nothing to anyone else besides me. Maybe I am oversharing, but I worry that by not mentioning these small takeaways, they will eventually fade away, but when I share them, no matter how miniscule, it gives these memory embers oxygen to breathe and stay with us longer. They are not huge moments, but they are my moments and I choose to push them out into the universe. They are printed, so hopefully they will live on long after I leave this earth.
#Tryharder to share. Life is just a series of little moments after little moments; occasionally disrupted by a major life event. It’s important that these feelings, memories and words are shared because you never know how they might help others to connect the dots in their own lives.
That’s exactly why I write these chapters.