Today we formally celebrate my brother’s life. My sweet brother passed away Friday after a courageous and hard fought battle against cancer. He was a man of incomparable compassion for others. He never wanted others to hurt or be sad. He would rather people think badly of him than for him to possibly be the cause of anyone thinking or saying something bad about someone else.
Monte has also always been Uncle Monkey to my girls. I don’t even remember how it started. I can’t remember if he told the kids to call him that or if it was the fact that they couldn’t pronounce Monte and it came out as Monkey. It mostly sounded like “Unka Monkey”. He has always loved kids for as long as I can remember. He loved holding them and hugging them and just being around them. His grandchildren meant the world to him.
I remember when one of my kids was just a few months old I was visiting my mom and Monte came to see them. I was very shy about nursing my children in front of people because I have always been very modest about things like that. I was sitting in the back bedroom nursing her and he came back to “meet her”. I had a blanket covering her head and me and he came bursting in the room. It caught me by surprise and I pulled the blanket further over my shoulder. He said he wanted to see her and I said “she’s eating”. He said “So?” And I’m pretty sure I was beet red. I was like “I’ll bring her out later when she finishes” and he said “I wanted to see her now.” I told him I was embarrassed because she was nursing and he said “Well, it doesn’t bother me.” And grabbed the blanket and pulled it up and started talking to her like she was just sitting on my lap. And that’s the way my brother was. He was just him, plain and simple, no pretentions, no fuss, just love for everyone.
He lived his life unapologetically and to the fullest. He was a man of character and he didn’t pull punches. You knew how he felt. He wore his heart on his sleeve and he didn’t miss an opportunity to tell you that he loved you. You knew where you stood with him and you knew how he felt about you. He packed a whole lot of life into his 58 years. I know he lived his life without regrets and my one regret is that he lived the last few months of his life in pain. I hate that he had to go through all that agony and I know his last months were agony. You could see it on his face and in his beautiful sad blue eyes but he still didn’t complain. I know he also hated to depend on people to do things for him.
I know I have written in earlier posts how he was my hero when we were younger because someone ripped the head off my Saucy Walker doll and I was unconsolable until he somewhere found a giant rubber band and somehow finagled a way to use it to reattach her head to her body. I was one happy little girl, I tell you. Another time I fell out of the big oak tree by our house and into a bees nest. All my other siblings took off running for the house and left me and Monte turned around and came back for me. He saved me a world of hurt from those bee stings. I did get stung but it would have been much worse.
My mom said Monte started walking at 6 months old (I wasn’t born yet so I can’t swear to that) and barely after that she came out into the living room to find him perched on top of the TV set, one of those big console numbers. And his adventures only intensified from there. When he was only probably 4 or 5 I was told (I still hadn’t been born) he tied a towel around his neck and said he was superman and tried to jump across the creek and landed on a rock and I think busted his head open. It probably wasn’t the first time and it definitely wasn’t the last. Another time when he was probably 8 or 10 he again thought he was superman and jumped off the second story roof of the house. I don’t know how our mom survived those years!
As a kid and teenager Monte was always adventurous. He was always getting into something. I remember we were once playing a game of “Blind Man’s Bluff” and we blindfolded Monte and turned him around and around and around in circles and aimed him for the soapstone slab corner of the house. Then we yelled for him to go find the truck. Monte ran right smack into the foundation of the house and busted his head open and we all fell out laughing and had a great time laughing at him until our mom came out and opened a can of whoop ass on all of us. At least we enjoyed our shenanigans for a few minutes!
When he and our brother Gary were fairly young, maybe 9 and 10, my mom found them out in the yard hiding behind a hill sharing one of our dad’s cigarettes that they had stolen. One of them was saying to the other “Hey, it’s MY turn… give me a puff!” when our mom piped up and said “Why don’t yall give ME a puff?” I don’t think they knew whether to run or cry. They probably did both. I think they were probably beaten to within an inch of their lives.
Once when he was a young teenager our mom walked into his room to catch him smoking a cigarette. He was leaned back in one of those cane back chairs, with it on its back two legs, just chilling. When our mom walked in it scared him so badly he threw his cigarette at the window before he realized the screen was on the window and it fell back into the room on the floor. I think our mom made him eat it. Unfortunately that still didn’t stop him.
He also (as a teenager) tried to make wine like our dad always did. He didn’t realize you had to let it breathe so he put a bunch of grapes in a jug, put some sugar in it, closed it up and let it ferment. He hid it behind the living room sofa so our mom and dad wouldn’t find it but I think he forgot about it for a while until one evening we were all sitting in the living room watching TV and all of a sudden BOOM! And then the smell of those rotten grapes. We didn’t realize what it was until the “wine” started seeping out from under the sofa onto the wooden floor. What a mess it was to clean that up off the floor AND the walls. Even though Monte did it, when one of us made a mess… we were all pretty much responsible for the cleanup!
As a senior in high school he drove our route’s school bus. I don’t know what idiot ever thought that teenage boys were responsible enough to drive a bus load of screaming misbehaving children from age 6 to 18. At least he never wrecked it (that I know of) although I know that once he did get it mired up to the axles in mud when he and one of his friends decided one evening that they wanted to go play poker at a local church and with the parking lot of the church not being big enough they parked it in the field beside the church….after it had been raining for quite a while. My dad and one of his friends had to go and pull the bus out of the mud.
He had to get up early to drive the bus but he always hated getting up early in the mornings and my mom had to leave for work at about 6 and would try to get him up and he’d always say he was up and he’d roll over and go back to sleep. After a while of that my mom finally realized he wasn’t getting up and she’d yell up “It doesn’t SOUND like you’re up!” so then he’d leave his hard soled shoes right beside his bed and he’d lean over and bang his shoes on the floor so it would sound like he was walking so that our mom would leave him alone to go to work. He knew all the tricks!
He was always good for a story and a laugh. He was also one of the kindest hearted people you would ever in your life meet. Monte would give you the shirt off his back. If you needed something and he was able he’d give it to you and if he didn’t, he’d try to get it for you anyway. He would do anything for you, friend or foe, and I don’t think he had many foes.
In honor of my dear brother I am going to link here the post I wrote about him last week when I had the honor and privilege of taking him fishing for what turned out to be his last time. Yes, Monte may no longer we walking among us here but I’m sure he is sitting on a great wide riverbank brimming with the best tasting fish ever. And yes, Monte is now the one that got away. My dear brother I will always love you and keep you in my heart forever. RIP Uncle Monkey! 02/16/53 – /04/15/11