Sunday, October 25, 2009

Celebrating Brett

Today is October 25th. Usually, on this day, I re-post something that I wrote in memory of my beloved uncle (who passed away sixteen years ago). This time, I’m not going to re-post that blog (though you can read it by clicking here). Even though it was a good post about processing grief, and learning how to appreciate the people in your life before it’s too late, I feel that now is the time to write a post that concentrates on celebrating his life. Everyone still misses him, and that‘s why it’s time to tell the world WHY we miss him. His life was a life that touched so many and he truly made an impact on everyone he met!

If I had to describe my uncle Brett in one word, I doubt I would be able to do it. Not only because I always have so many things to say, but because someone like him cannot be contained in one word. The uncle Brett I remember was an incredibly handsome, charming, funny, loving, and talented man who could really make you smile! And, as my Mom and aunt can attest to, he was also very ornery and they have been the butt of his jokes many times (though, my Mom has shared stories with me about how they pulled their own jokes on him!). The family and friends that know him best can probably tell you funnier and better stories than I can! The only ones I have are the ones that I have heard or have seen firsthand in the few years that I knew him (I was in fifth grade when he died).

One of the first memories that comes to mind is the time my Mom, brother, and I visited him at his place. He had his synthesizer set up and he allowed me to play on it. Without my knowledge, he recorded me as I played something from memory. Then, he boasted that he could play that same thing using only his nose! Of course, I thought that was impossible, but he proved me wrong - well, sort of!! I watched in astonishment as I heard my exact song playing as his nose moved up and down the keyboard! Knowing him (and the fact that I hadn’t played a simple chopsticks!) I figured he had tricked me somehow! Mom says my expression was priceless! He never would admit that he tricked me. In fact, he always insisted that he could still do it, but that it would have to be another time because he had a cold or something and couldn’t use his nose that day. ;) It was kind of a running gag between us. He was so funny! Grandma always said he was so good at getting people to fall for such outlandish things (he “got her” a LOT!). ;)

The other thing I remember most about him is his music. I would LOVE to be able to share a song of his with you, but I can’t. Everything he recorded is on cassette tapes. Maybe one day, we will have them converted but until then, you’ll have to take my word for it that he was VERY talented!! I remember we used to listen to his tape in the car non-stop! One of the ones that my brother and I liked best was “The Ice Cream Song”. It started: “Going to the Country Kitchen. I’ve got some dinner on my mind….” The chorus, addressed to the waitress, was something my brother and I always liked to say: “Helen, Helen, I want some ice cream. I used to get it here free all the time….all the time I want some ice cream.” I know, it’s hard to appreciate it or understand it if you haven’t heard it with the music, but trust me….it gets stuck in your head (I’m humming it to myself right now! Won‘t be able to get it out of my head!).

Aside from his original compositions, he also sang a lot of well-known songs. He used to have a band called “R-Tyme” (family/friends, I hope I remembered and spelled it correctly!) and I remember my brother constantly singing “Johnny Be Good” after seeing/hearing my uncle perform it. Uncle Brett made Michael J. Fox’s “Back to the Future” version look like child‘s play!

There are three other songs that I remember him singing/playing that I was especially fond of. One of them was “Rocky Top” (my brother and I LOVED this one!). Another one was “Alone” by Heart. He played that song on one of his visits to our house. I was really young, and I remember how much I loved the piano solo at the beginning of the song (and it always takes me back to that memory when I hear that song today). I remember I was dancing in circles like I was a ballerina or something. He was making up his own lyrics as he went along. I remember him singing that I was a pretty dancer or something. ;)

By far, the song/memory that stands out most in my mind is when he played the song “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. It was during Thanksgiving 1985. I was three years old and my brother was a newborn and we were at my grandparents house. He played the song and his friend, Rosie, sang it. My Dad had a BETA recorder (um, yeah… preceded VHS tapes lol) and he taped it. Recently, my Dad got those tapes converted to DVD. The picture and sound isn’t very good, but it’s so precious to be able to watch again! I don’t have the right programs to convert it and put it on YouTube (and if I do, I don‘t know how to use it) so I just played it on the computer and videoed it with my digital camera and uploaded it that way. I hope you can see/hear it alright (and yes, the little girl running from Mom‘s lap to Grandma‘s is me)!! It is my great joy, honor, and pleasure to share it with you!!! This song has become “Brett’s Song” to many of us (at least to me). It used to be difficult for any of us to hear it (Mom used to change the station immediately if it came on the radio). Now, however, I can listen to it and enjoy it. Though, I do still tear up from time to time (see video at the end of the blog).

There is a lot more that I could say and share with you, but to tell you the truth, he really leaves me speechless. Greater than all of the things I mentioned was his love for others. He was extremely giving! And, towards my brother and I, he loved us as if we were his own and was extremely kind and generous to us in so many ways! I remember telling him one time that I had a “boyfriend” and he said, “Well, you tell him that he has to go through Uncle Brett first!” That always makes me smile, but yet, sad that my husband never got to “go through” him and get to know him (sadder still that he didn’t get to know our kids). However, I am glad that this world had him for the short time that he was here and I know that his legacy lives on (and so does he).

I hope that this blog, pictures, and this priceless video, has given you an idea of how amazing, funny, talented, and special my uncle was (and still is to so many!). I remember my Mom telling me that there were SO MANY people that came to see him at his viewing. I can only imagine the countless stories and memories that people have of him! If you are one of those people, and you would like to share, leave a comment! I would love to read them (as I’m sure all those that know and love him would too!).

Grace and peace to all of you!! Thank you for reading! It has been my joy to share these memories and I hope you have enjoyed them too!! God bless you!!


Shane Gilreath said...

That was a really nice tribute to a man that obviously left a deep impression on many.

[video doesn't want to work for me, but I'll try again later]

Melissa said...

Yes, he sure did! On Facebook, I got a lot of comments (and a lot of great stories I hadn't heard - really good ones/funny ones lol). Even reconnected with the woman in the video that I haven't seen since I was three!! Such a pleasant surprise for those of us that have wanted to reconnect with her!!

Sorry you always have such trouble viewing the video. :( Though, if you can view it eventually, I'd say it's worth it! :) (Plus, I'm in it too lol. I'm the fussy three year old that can't decide whose lap she wants to sit on lol).