I have a wonderful brother. He’s been my brother my whole life because he’s two years older than I am. (That’s a little Norwegian math for you there)
Corliss (I call him Chummie) is much different than me and my sister, Sigrid (I call her Susie). He’s much quieter and holds his feelings in somewhat. Sigrid and I are very effusive and there is no laundry in the laundry bag of feelings and emotions. We all have one thing in common. We live in our own little idea worlds, totally oblivious to what’s going on around us. Remembering stuff is not one of our strong suits. This was proven out one fall day growing up in North Dakota.
Everyday we took my sister to Hughes Junior High which was about 11 blocks away from Bismarck High School, where my brother and I attended. We had a little brown Renault car. We didn’t know how to pronounce the word the way you were supposed to, you know like how the French would. We pronounced it like it rhymes with the word vault. We’d have to occasionally crank start the car by inserting a crank positioned at the front of the car and crank it up. As we did this, the car would begin to shudder, then start. Suddenly, the crank would reverse in the opposite direction…almost ripping your wrist off. Ah, sweet days of automotive opulence and sophistication.
We dropped Sigrid off at school and continued down Avenue D which was a straight shot to the high school. However, this fine day our car started to judder, cough and subsequently gave up the ghost about a block away from where we’d dropped my sister off. The Renault was smoking and fuming, so we just pushed it around the corner and parked it on the street there. From there we walked all the way to the high school that morning. When we got out of school that afternoon we walked out together. I asked my brother, “Where’d you park the car?” My brother was preferable because he couldn’t remember where we parked. Now you can’t possibly think that I would remember where we parked. That would be asking way too much of this ADHD “idiot savant”…without the savant part. We looked and looked for the car and couldn’t figure it out, so we just walked home. We were sitting around the table dinner table that evening and my dad ask, “where is your car we looked and looked for the car and couldn’t figure it out, so we just walked home. We were sitting around the dinner table that evening and my dad asked, “Where is your car?” I can look down at my plate because I didn’t want to answer and I kind of looked over to my brother and he had this bewildered look on his face and said, “I think we lost it.” My dad who was of course naturally incredulous at Chummie’s report used one of his favorite swear words again. “You lost the car you lost the COCKEYED car!!!” My mother grew read further, “Boys, how do you lose a car?” Not skipping a beat my dad blurted out, “Oh, just give them a little time and they’ll figure out a way to do it”. He kept mumbling to himself…”they lost the cockeyed car …they lost the cockeyed car.”
Lets review my dad’s names for us in his famous “Hall of Unmitigated Scorn”
Now there were three uses of this term.
1. Imploring us to get up at 7:30 on Saturday morning to do chores. “Okay, YOU BIRDS…time to get up.
2. This references his frustration with us as in, “ YOU BIRDS better settle down.
3. Asking for something other than what was prepared and on the table. “Listen, YOU BIRDS…This ain’t no short order joint.”
BOZOS (A higher level of threat, with a more ominous and a far more certain impending “apocalyptic “quality portending no good outcome.
Again there were two uses.
1. Referencing something we should have done that we didn’t.
You BOZOS better get that lawn mowed….and I mean right now!!!”
2. If we said something disrespectful. “Listen, BOZO, You better change your smart mouth, or I’ll give you a different sorta smart to cure that for you.”
3. If we had crossed the line..that clear but unspoken line. Listen up you two BOZOS…Get in the car. (“Get in the car” was code for total annihilation of any opportunity for fun and was accompanied with the knowledge that your body would in some way not feel the same as it had just minutes before. )
Any use of COCKEYED
This clearly represented unmitigated frustration at the highest levels of despondency. It did not imply punishment or an impending edict by the parental court….but when dad pulled that word out of his vocabulary it was the sort of thing that gave you a nervous twitching and sense of a downward spiral in the swagger of our familial mojo. We all knew what he was doing. He was swearing in his own way….you know…letting loose all his frustration. It was weird…but even though he was at a a fevered emotional level… I really felt sorry for him which brought on a brief moment of remorse… and I just wanted to comfort him.
And before any of you say anything, NO…we were not emotionally scarred in any way. My dad was loving and there was never any question in our minds that he wanted and provided for us the best way he knew how…so don’t get all psychological on me here.
I think my brother and I got into one fight in the entire time we grew up together. This is a man I revere and look up to. He is amazingly talented and is the kind of person that does not call attention to himself. I talk about our exploits in my book, “Runaway Horse”.
Not only is he a fine musician and singer, but his creative woodworking as a luthier and furniture maker is something to behold. Probably my most treasured possession is the cello that my father bought for me in high school. This instrument was damaged in a move to another house. My brother took the broken instrument and spent two years learning how to repair a cello and then brought this instrument back to life. I was in tears at his presentation to me. He’s built violins and plays them when we get together. He got another old cello, repaired it and started practicing until he could play the first of the Bach Six Suites. He is an amazing treasure to me.
Chummie has endured polio as a child, a heart attack…..and the greatest travail of his family was the loss of their youngest daughter and sister, Holly. She lost her life in a boating accident at the age of 25. I can hardly type this part. The waves of grief our entire family feel to this day are relenting. You just wake up from time to time or in the middle of your day…the remembrance and beauty of this precious girl coming pouring over you in a flood of emotion. I look up to the sky and say something like..” Hey Holly girl…I sure am missing you right now. Things are manageable here, but I can’t wait to see you. Hold down the fort until we all get there, okay. Cheers!!!” I think about my times with her for a moment and then move on in my day. Funny, but after that time with her, my days have turned out really good. She’s always a warm presence in my heart. Stoically, and with great faith, Chummie, Donna and Holly’s sister, Serena, carry on with their lives…but I’m sure, with a thread of melancholy accompanying their loving memories. I will write one day about Holly. For there are so many amazing attributes she had in her short but kindly action packed life.
I love being with my brother. We talk music, issues of life and love for each other. Nothing matches the joy we have when we pull out our instruments with our sister, Sigrid on the piano singing to our hearts content. We haven’t skipped a beat since marching around in our living room pounding on pots and pans as are mother played the piano for us…sometines singing to us. I am unable to express the joy that brings to us…cuz there aren’t descriptive words to match the feeling. I have always looked up to Chummie as the leader of the Nelson siblings, and as you can tell…it’s not hard to see why. He is and always will be …my big brother.