My brother Jerry had the warmest smile of any man I know. And an impish grin that had a way of ending his arguments for him well into his mid-70s. Toward the end, that's what I missed first.
He had a child's enthusiasm for Saturday-morning cartoons, a teenager's knack of falling too quickly in love with the wrong people, and was humble enough to recognize when when he was in the wrong and apologize. Usually.
He looked a lot like Elvis. He drove me crazy.
From the time he enrolled in Texas Tech in the mid-1950s, he was a loyal Red Raider. As a psychology undergrad, he was on the animal behavior team that trained Ham and Enis, the chimpanzees that flew space capsules during NASA's Project Mercury. For the rest of her life, Mother carried in her billfold that photo of Jerry wearing his lab coat, with the chimps on leash.
Later, Jerry joined the Civil Service and became a chemical weapons and munitions expert for the Department of the Army. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but it was a job that had him living in a lot of different places stateside and in Germany a couple of different times. While he was over there, he developed a taste for Continental breads, wines, chocolates and cheeses. He became an opera snob. He earned a Master's in International Relations.
Jerry possessed a deep respect for and an ongoing curiosity about Native American cultures, past and present. He enjoyed talking about the Mound Builder civilizations and the Olmecs and the Toltecs, the Maya and the Inca.
He supported Indian schools. He put great stock in dreams.
After he retired, he returned to Lubbock, earned a Master's in Anthropology at Texas Tech and remained an avid participant in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI for short) as long as he was able. Somewhere around here there's a copy of the OLLI catalog with Jerry's picture on the cover. Or maybe it was a newspaper clipping, now that I think about it.
Somehow he got in the habit of giving me the weather before I went anywhere so I'd know how to dress and whether to take an umbrella. He'd end every day, every phone call the same folksy way: "Goodnight. Sleep good, and have you some good dreams." In time, those are the little things I'll miss.
Jerry was devoted to Monterey Baptist Church, especially the choir. He sang second tenor (and sometimes bass) in a gospel quartet called Boundless Love that toured the South Plains. His quartet even opened for the Gaithers one time when they were in town. He practiced for weeks. He was on cloud nine.
It happened gradually. Office visits began to replace pastimes. Medical staff became like family, he saw them so often. He tried, and got better. He tried, and got worse.
The doctors said it was his heart, mostly. I'm not sure about that. They didn't know how abundant it was to start with.
Jerry, it's so hard to say goodbye. So I won't. I'll bid you goodnight. Sleep well. Dream on.