Monday, April 27, 2015

My Brother and other assorted things

Be aware, some of this ACK might have adult language in it. You have been warned

My Brother, Rick Massengill, left this life about noon on Easter Sunday, 5 April, 2015. Twenty days ago.  It somehow seems like a lifetime ago.
My brother and I didn't have the idealistic upbringing of a Beaver Cleaver or a Ricky Nelson (who Rick was named after). It sometimes wasn't fun around our house when we were kids. I have said it before, some days you got off the school bus and you didn't know when you walked in the house if mom and dad would be "f***kin or fighting".  Until I was 14 years old (Rick would have been 17 or 18 years old at that time) We didn't see a sober Christmas from our Father.

  When our Father became sober, I was still young enough to want to hang around with Dad. We stuck together like glue but with Rick it was a different story. He was just old enough at the time that he was thinking about being his own man. I remember him telling me after Dad stopped drinking "You might be getting along with Dad and Mom might be getting along with Dad but it seems like all we do is growl at each other" and I hate to say I didn't get it at the time but the passage of time has given me an understanding of where Rick was coming from all those years ago.

  When we were young and Dad was drinking, I remember laying in bed late at night and being woke up by our Parents fighting or trying to go to sleep while you can hear your Parents fighting isn't an easy thing. Rick and I shared a bedroom for a good many years and during the "bad" nights I would go crawl in bed with Rick because of two things. 1. It was a point in my life that I didn't understand just what the hell was going on and 2. I just didn't want to be alone.

  Being the youngest child, I got to stand back and watch life happening around me.  I remember feeling rather disconnected at a young age because I had no control over what happened to me or around me most of the time. I got to watch alot of things happen and the outcome or aftermath of how those decisions or actions turned out.  I got to watch both my Father and my Brother. I've seen the side of smoking and substance abuse they don't show you on the Beer or Cigarette advertisements.  It isn't pretty.

After Rick and I were both in our 20's we became pretty good friends.  The older brother/little brother dynamic from our youth was largely gone and we were much more on an even footing between us.  Sometimes that was a good thing, other times...not so much, but we lived.  I got out of my USAF tech school in Nov 1984. I took 30 days leave before going to Alaska.  At the time, my brother had a 1962 Chevy Nova. A beautiful car that I would have given my eye teeth to have!  I was helping Rick put brakes on the car. I was putting a spring back on the backing plate that holds the brake shoe in the proper position in relation to the brake drum. I picked up a pair of Vice Grips and pulled on the end of that spring to hook it on to the mount.  In doing that, unknown to me at the time, I was pulling those Vice Grips toward my face.  Those Vice Grips slipped off that spring and WHAM, I hit myself DEAD in between the eyes.  The only thing missing in my world at that moment was the small tweeting birds you see when someone gets hit upside the head in a cartoon.  I'm thankful I didn't really hurt myself too badly because Rick was under the car laughing SO hard he almost couldn't breath. If he had called 911, All he could have done was laughed really loudly.

  In 1987, Rick helped me drive out of Alaska.  It was one heck of a trip.  He told me earlier this year, the trip from Alaska to Knoxville was the highlight of his life up to that point.  We stopped at Liard Hot Springs ( ). The photos of that place STILL don't do it justice.  In 1987 Liard Lodge was a small house (it didn't look like the photos on their webpage! ) We were drinking at the bar with a few local people and I was ask "are you in the Army" and I said something like "No....I was smart enough to go in the Air Force"...and I thought nothing more of it. The next day driving away from Liard Hot Springs, Rick told me "You are too damn opinionated!" and I looked right back at him and said "My opinions are as good as anyone's and you're and asshole"! At that point we agreed to disagree I guess you can say.... I found out later that he was concerned about me talking in less than glowing terms about the U.S. Army. He said "what if one of the guys at the bar had been in the Army and he had mopped the floor with your ass, what would you have done then?!"....I had to admit he had a rather good point.  There we were, two strangers WAY far away from home or friends, in the middle of NO WHERE. Getting your ass beat at that point of the trip would have been a bad thing.

  The Alaska trip had other pitfalls along the way. We stopped in Havre, Montana. For me to say "we had a few beers" was a TOTAL understatement. We both got VERY drunk that night. We were trying to make about 300 miles a day, give or take a mile or two.  The next morning, hungover to beat the band, we went 20 miles to the next small town and checked in to a hotel. After checking in, we ordered breakfast.  Me, being the stupid and younger one, ordered EGGS....(Let me take this moment to educate the younger crowd that might be reading this.  Eggs are the WORST thing you can order and put on the empty, formerly alcohol filled gut. If you haven't barffed before then you WILL barf after you eat those Eggs. Remember, you heard it hear first. I think that is The Daily ACK's first public service announcement! )
Once we put Havre, Montana behind us we made great time.  In the days before GPS, we had a Rand McNally US map book with us. The closer we got to home, the more Rick would drive. He wanted to get home to Knoxville. I couldn't blame him either. We were on the road together for 8 days from Fairbanks, AK to Knoxville, TN and drove a distance of right at 5,000 miles.

Rick could fix darn near anything in or around a house.  I have a Time/Life book about how to fix most home problems. My brother didn't need anything like a book.  In 2004 he helped me put a roof on our house in Sumter.  I hate heights. Getting up the ladder the first time rattled my nerves something awful. I was very scared. It took me a while to get the hang of it.  We roofed that house in about a week.  One night while he was at my house, I ask him how to put a cabinet back in that I had removed to fix the water connection to the ice maker of the refridgerator. I only wanted advice to do it myself at a later date...the next thing I know, he had a hammer in his hand and had that cabinet put back in almost before I could form the words to try and stop him.  I have no idea who I will call the next time I need advice about how to fix something at the house.
I could think up a million things about My Brother and the laughs we had and the times we talked but I have to end this somewhere.
Right after I was told he has passed away, I ask his wife, Denise Massengill, could I post something on the Holston High alumni group. She said that I could.  The post about my brother passing away got right at 75 comments and a great many of them spoke about how good of a guy Rick was and that people had fond memories of him.  I'm happy and uplifted by the memories other people had about Rick.

I miss my brother a great deal but I'm so glad he is no longer in pain. I hope him and my Dad are sitting by the pearly gates, drinking real coffee and laughing about something. They deserve it.


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