I just woke up from a dream where I was talking with my mother about Matthew. He is/was my brother who passed away about 17 years ago. At the time of his death I wasn’t thinking too clearly, depressed over losing the love of a girl who I never should have even given the time of day to (funny how history repeats itself, isn’t it?). I was too immature to fully comprehend the magnitude of what had happened. This is what I should have said.

Matthew wasn’t born Matthew, he was born Ronald. He was named after his father. After my mother’s divorce from Ronald and her subsequent marriage to Robert, Ronald was asked if he wanted to change his name as well. Since the children were being adopted their last names would be changing anyway. Being tired of being nick-named “Ronald McDonald”, he took them up on the offer. Ronald ceased to be, and Matthew was born.

Three years later, Matthew became the big brother to someone who would match his former moniker, me. I don’t have a lot of memories of him at home, he enlisted in the Navy when I was still in my toddler years. I shared a room with him and remember a handmade ceramic he made in the form of a knights full face helm, some D&D dice, and his Dragon magazines. My brother was a geek like me. I also remember watching him leave for school one day, walking up the road to the high-school that was about a quarter mile up the road.

Matthew was a good son and loved his family deeply. We would often visit him on base during my childhood and teen years. It was because of him that I learned to SCUBA dive. It was from him that I saw my first porno (Caligula, in case you were wondering). When I was a young teen he invited me with him to a friends house to join in their D&D game, later to join a Star Fleet Battles game. I’m sure I was the annoying kid brother, but he put up with me marvelously.

He nicknamed me schnook, which I always thought to be a term of annoyance, but thanks to the internet can finally see his love for me… and his dry humor.

schnook: an easily imposed-upon or cheated person, a pitifully meek person, a particularly gullible person, a cute or mischievous person or child (perhaps from Yiddish שנוק shnuk ‘snout’; cf. Northern German Schnucke ‘sheep’) (OED)

He was also a spice freak like me. Mom and I often recall how when she accidentally ate a hot pepper from a chinese take-out dish (which caused her to put her mouth under the faucet), Matthew decided that he would try one of these “crunchy little peppers”. He tried to remain stoic, but with tears running down his face after a minute, all he was able to croak out in pain was “They’re not that hot.”

He and his wife put me up for a summer while I was learning to SCUBA dive in Georgia. I was the typical 15 year old teen. I wasn’t all that neat around the house, and I wasn’t too appreciative of their hospitality. It’s only in hindsight that I see what a gift I was given. It was the last time I would ever spend an extended period of time with him.

One regret I have is that my time with him was so short. I was just coming into the age when I would have stopped being the “annoying kid brother”, and just became “the younger brother”.

But I suppose the biggest tragedy is that his children have grown up without knowing him. He was a good man. The only thing he loved more than the Navy was his children. He would have done anything for them. He was an excellent father. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live up to his example, but I hope so.

Matthew – I’m sorry that I couldn’t realize these things when you were alive. You blessed my life in so many ways, some of which I’m just starting to realize. I’m sorry that I didn’t honor your life when it came to an end.

Matthew, I miss you.

-Stephen

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