My Brother

In Loving Memory

Richard B. Reed

June 16, 1943 – November 13, 2012

On Tuesday evening this week, my healthy, exuberant, funny, life-loving brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. It was a surprise and shock for all of his family and friends.

Of course, I’ve been thinking of him all week and the hole his absence has left.

I wanted to share some of my memories to let you get to know this brother I love.

One of my earliest memories was when he came home from college one day, and he and Paula were going to go to Disneyland for the afternoon. I was the luckiest four-year-old in the world, when they took me with them! With four other siblings in school and a baby brother at home, he chose me!

His entire career was devoted to law enforcement — starting as a military policeman for the U.S. army, and retiring as a captain in the California Highway Patrol. When he was in the service, in Germany, he sent home gifts, like this stein and little wooden scene, which came for my 7th birthday. At the time, I wondered why he sent it, asking, “I thought he was in Germany. Did he go visit France? This has an F on it.”

“No, that’s a 7 for your birthday”

I just thought they were wrong and quit arguing, but I always treasured this gift from my big brother. (It wasn’t until many years later that I finally got it — some people really did make their 7’s like that.)

When I was about eight, my mom must have asked him to teach us to swim. Perhaps she just asked him to make sure her youngest three kids wouldn’t drown if we fell in the water. He taught us to swim, not American-Red-Cross-swimming-lesson-style. This was pure Rick-style — throwing us into the pool at his apartment and helping us make it to the edge. I guess it worked; we’re still here.

Rick owned the only motorcycles I have ever ridden on. I always felt proud when he came over and took me for a ride.

When I was an adult and getting ready to move to Michigan to be closer to my future husband, he took me aside and gave me a fatherly talk. (My own father had died when I was seven, so he was a faithful fill-in.) His little talk with me included an offer to buy a plane ticket back home, just in case I needed it.

Later when I asked him to walk me down the aisle and give me away at my wedding, he said yes and wrote a three-page letter in response. In part…

My Dear “Lil” Sister,

I received your letter today. This is undoubtedly the first time I ever sent a letter back by return mail!

He gave me good wishes and guidance for my upcoming marriage, along with plenty of his signature sarcasm and ribbing, but poignant passages, like this one, have made me keep this letter for the past thirty years:

I love you so much and I would be so very proud to share June 11th with you and Keith by ‘escorting you down the aisle.’ Or, any other way you choose (excepting parking cars).

As for your other questions and comments,

  1. Fine.
  2. No.
  3. No, not quite as much.
  4. I’m glad for you, if you’re happy.
  5. Yes, I will.
  6. Thanx.
  7. See you then.

And here’s a note from Rick from my daughter’s baby book. (I really didn’t order him to write in her book!)

My own daughters have wonderful stories about him too. When they were very young, they didn’t get to see Rick and Barbara very often. However, they did know that Uncle Rick and Aunt Barbara were the ones who got them the teddy bear necklaces with a “100% genuine diamond” embedded in the tummy.

On one of their trips to Arizona, when Katie was four, they took us out to Olive Garden. We stayed late, enjoying conversation and a leisurely dinner. Someone ordered tiramisu for dessert, and Katie sampled a bite and loved it. She kept eating it until it was gone. Rick ordered her another piece.

Katie laughs about the time Rick threatened her high school boyfriend that if he didn’t take good care of her, he would come back to take care of him.

Last summer I got this birthday card from him. Look at the inside (and back, where he answers his own question) to get to know more about this warm, fun-loving man.


Back of the card, and the answer to Rick’s question.

The last time I saw Rick, we were together saying goodbye to our mother who died two years ago. As one of my sisters said, that is not enough time between generations.

We will all miss him terribly.

“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

In Memory

Today would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. I have been thinking about her so much lately. I miss her a lot. She was loving, fun, and selfless.

Clockwise from upper left, 1988, 1949, 2006, today

My daughter wrote two sonnets about her grandma after we saw her for the last time:

jalapeño sweats
I’d never seen my Grandma grey and worn.
This shrunken woman in the hospice bed
cannot be my grandma. My grandma lives alone
in Yucca Valley, hiking on the dirt
roads with muddy furrows that sink like
the laugh lines on her cheeks. She conceals
wispy hair under immaculate wigs. Despite
sore hammer toes she works her sky-high heels.
That day I hiked the furrowed roads alone,
adrift amidst waxy Creosote.
Stringy jackrabbits, baby quail gambol,
flitting through dry gulches like rowboats.
Somehow I didn’t want to be inside
Spring Break two thousand ten, when Grandma died.
Spring Break two thousand ten, when Grandma died,
I arrived in time for bon voyage,
the convalescent odors scattered by
tamales, Spanish rice, tortillas, guac,
and Grandma, a bit tipsy on boxed wine.
One last boisterous fiesta while the Reeds
were still a family, whole and feeling fine.
The jalapeño sweat displaced the needs
that lay beneath the cornered hospice sheets.
The jalapeños were what got to me,
the smiles against those hospice whites.
The laugh of one you love is therapy
with nebulizer and glass of sweet rosé.
I’d never seen my grandma worn and grey.
By Maria Krebs

And one I wrote after she died.
Screen shot 2010-04-25 at 8.51.03 PM

Close to Me