When I went to bed last night, I was thinking about today being blog day and wondering what I could possibly write about. Then I went to Facebook this morning and found posts and private messages letting me know that my former brother-in-law had passed away in the night. He and my sister divorced years ago, for very good reasons, but you just don’t forget someone who has been part of your family for years. My heart goes out to his children and my heart remembers the good times.
He and my sister formed a musical group and invited me to sing with them. The first time this group wanted to participate in the Florida Folk Festival, the one way that was offered was with a set on the Gazebo Stage, a stage dedicated to Florida music. We agreed to do a twenty-five minute set of songs about Florida even though we didn’t have that many Florida songs in our repertoire. My brother-in-law sat down and wrote some. They were good. They were astonishingly good.
I will never forget learning those songs and I will never forget singing them at the Florida Folk Festival, first on the Gazebo Stage and eventually on the Amphitheater Stage. We were able to do that for several years and they were good years, at least for me. He was a phenomenal musician and songwriter and I feel privileged to have had those experiences. My first trip to the Will McLean Festival was with that group. My only trip to Suwannee Springfest was with that group.
I remember that he learned about the nickname one of my older brothers had called me in childhood and became only the second person who ever got away with calling me that. He still called me that the last time I ran into him, shopping in the local Walmart, years after he and my sister split up. My brother passed in 2008, so that’s a nickname I will not be hearing again. I would not have thought that would make me sad, but it does.
I remember Halloweens and Thanksgivings and Christmases, times when he was there, part of the family, adding his special sense of drama and whimsy to the proceedings. My husband and I used to host an ornament making party every Christmas. There’s a glittery eyeball that still hangs on my tree every year, thanks to my ex-brother-in-law’s creativity. I remember one Christmas when I was strolling a shopping center with my children and we ran into Santa Claus. My kids were impressed when Santa addressed them by name. My brother-in-law was a “helper” that year.
I know the man was not perfect. He had flaws. He had issues. He and my sister could not stay together, but he was family for fifteen years and we will not forget him. There were plenty of good times and we will remember those. Rest in peace, my brother-outlaw.