This past summer we made a visit to Ohio where I (Ellen) met up with some of my family. It was easy to share our “Bob and Ellen Adventures” while there, but much more difficult to write about the family side of the visit. With my mother heading toward 90 on her next birthday and my brother battling colon cancer, it was a bittersweet reunion.
Last week, my brother died. He was just 59 years old. He’d been in the trenches, duking it out with his cancer, for more than two years. Despite his radiation, chemotherapy, duffle-sized bag full of drugs, he traveled the world, created art, spoke at conferences, and rallied for colon-cancer research funding in Washington. He said, “Except for being sick, these have been the best years of my life.”
We traveled very differently: Bob and I like to get as far away from the hubbub of cities and crowds as we possibly can. Randy and his wife Susan immersed themselves in the culture, history, architecture, and art of Europe.
But back in the late 1980s before any of us could afford to travel much, we ventured up and down the Massachusetts coastline:
Here my sister Dorothy and Randy take a gander at the Plymouth Rock. Yes, it’s really a rock.
Randy served in the US Army in the 18th Airborne — he plunged out of fast-flying jets with a skimpy parachute as his only protection. He encouraged me to jump out of my own safety zone, and when I told him one day I’d eat sushi with him, he announced to everyone riding the Boston Transit bus we were on that “My sister is going to eat sushi!”
A lifetime of experiences with my brother have come back to me this past week, adventures long forgotten peeking out from a cloudy memory. Today, when friends and family gather for his memorial in Cambridge, Massachusetts, decked out in bright colors in his memory, I will pay my own tribute to him on this opposite coast, knowing he salutes my adventurous spirit — wherever it might lead.