• Terry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. When Death Knocks

Being a brat, you get used to dealing with loss. Well, not really used to it, it becomes a fact of your life and you learn to deal with it.

Every time you move, you lose your friends, you have to make new ones. After a while, like the 3rd or 4th move, you begin to realize, you never really lose your friends because you never know when one might come back into your life, how the friendship might work from there

Sometimes it just picks up where it left off, sometimes it becomes stronger, sometimes you realize you have moved in different directions and are now just acquaintances. Some times past enemies become current friends.

In one of my earlier posts I spoke about how my brother's and I, while our parents were visiting with some on-base friends in Clinton, we were living off-base at the time, went out to play and ended up getting into a rock fight with some of the base brats. Later, after we moved on-base, some of those kids became our friends. Such is the life of a brat.

These experiences helped me deal with some real losses, the kind where the lost doesn't come back. When I was quite young, about six, my cousin Dusty died. He had not been a well child, ever, so his death wasn't unexpected, but it was quite catastrophic to me as it was the first time I had to deal with "he's never coming back."

Around this same time, my parents managed to lock themselves (and me and my five brothers) out of our PMQ on Leicester Square in Winnipeg. They got back in by sending me through the bathroom window. I was the only one small enough to fit and big enough to reach the lock on the front door. I was pretty proud of myself that I was able to save the day.

That event got me thinking about Dusty and I shared my conclusion with my Mom. "Maybe God locked himself out of his house and he needed Dusty to get him back in." That was the first time I saw someone laugh and cry at the same time. Might have been a strange conclusion but it helped me deal with the loss. Almost sixty years later, I still remember Dusty, how happy he always seemed to be even though he couldn't walk.

Then there was Michael P in Clinton. Talk about an enemy. He and I fought on many occasions. Whenever his brothers and cronies were around, he typically won the fight. When it was just he and I, I was generally the victor. I can't remember why we fought, but it was probably somewhere between his big ego and my big mouth. He was the first kid I remember who I just couldn't figure out a way to get along with.

One day I learned his father had died. That really shook me up because it made me think that maybe my father wasn't as invincible as I thought. What would happen if my dad wasn't around anymore, wasn't ever coming back. That put me firmly in Michael's shoes but I had no idea how to approach him, let him know that I was sorry for what he was going through.

The next time I saw Michael at school, I wanted to approach him and speak to him, I was still pretty shook up. Not knowing what I would say I moved toward him in the schoolyard. Some other kid walked between us and said to Michael, "I'm glad your dad is dead." Then I knew how I could reach out...it was with my fist, into that kids face. I pounded him good. I might not have been the only one Michael had a running dispute with but I don't think anyone else had a more bitter rivalry so, whatever Mike had put that kid through was not sufficient to deserve what had been said. Mike and his family moved off the base shortly after that.

I don't recall that he and I ever spoke again but, I do remember a few days or weeks later, seeing Mike with his cronies. They were talking and laughing. The thought that went through my head was "how can he ever laugh again, his dad is dead?" I think it was about then I realized, no matter what the loss, we find a way to move on, find a new balance. It was comforting to learn that lesson from someone I had normally despised. Thanks Mike, you ended up leaving me with hope.

Then there was the death of Eric W. He had lived across the street from me on Lundy's Lane in the Kingston PMQs. We were never good friends but we generally got along. We were scouts together and both liked Hot Wheels cars and would sometimes link our tracks and do races. His parents bought a house in Barriefield, just outside the base and he moved there. A short time later we heard that Eric had been hit by a car and killed, right in front of his father. We heard more gruesome renditions but, like many stories shared between brats, details would get twisted and exaggerated so I don't really know what happened, just that Eric was very dead.

That one really hurt because I had known him a few years, we mostly got along, and we shared interests. He was not coming back. I had to find a way to deal with it. His parents asked that, instead of flowers, people donate money to the local scout troop. I thought that was a wonderful idea because the scouts were always doing activities, camping, canoeing, field trips and Eric had been a big part of that. We had an inspiring scoutmaster, Eric B, and he took the money and bought a log cabin that he

photo of Eric W Memorial Cabin
Eric W Memorial Cabin

erected on a piece of property owned by the scout league. Every time we went camping, whether it was at the cabin or in tents elsewhere, it brought Eric W back for me, as though he wasn't really 'never coming back', he was always right there, in that cabin.

By the way, that cabin has been maintained by another brat who knew Eric W, was a scout with us. The man has put in innumerable hours repairing and doing general upkeep to that cabin. Thank you Glenn H, you are a champ.

By the time I was in my teens and lost my grandfathers, I was pretty well equipped to deal with the loss, accept it, find my new balance, and carry on. Fumbling my way through grief and holes in my life was preparing me for my later years, like now, when it seems I need those skills all too often. I wonder how I would have done without the experiences being a brat, leaving friends behind and finding that new path.

Another reason to love being raised a brat.

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