Thursday, May 05, 2016
A letter to Donald Wade Soper, Jr., my Big Brother
I missed you in Fresno this past week and never got a chance to say good-bye, bon voyage, auf wiedersehen, arrivaderci, a bientöt, see ya. You were already gone by the time I arrived, moved on to more glorious things I know.
I never got the chance to say thanks for so many things.
I never got to say thanks for taking care of me when I was small and we were alone together, just you and I pretty much all the time. You were there for me and that is why I am here today.
I never got to say thanks for coming to see me in Decatur while I was on home leave on my way to Vietnam. You and Jim Beam flew up from Pensacola to see me off. It was a cold and snowy late winter in Illinois but you came nevertheless. The three of us in a dive bar in downtown Soy Town. . .
I never got to say thanks for the airplane ride of my life. That day you put me into a flight suit and I donned Jim Beam’s helmet and we climbed into your T-28 trainer and up we went into the sunny blue sky over northwestern Florida. We dove onto the civil war Fort Pickens, performed a mock torpedo run on Santa Rosa public beach and you even let me take the controls and fly the plane. That didn’t last long, as you may recall, since I had the tendency to let the plane drift upwards at an alarming rate.
I never got to say thanks for the gift you brought back from Okinawa. A bayonet for an M-1 rifle was, I think back now, an odd thing to give a little boy but I treasured it nevertheless.
We haven’t seen each other much these past years. You went west while I eventually headed east and our paths rarely crossed: A wedding and a funeral brought us together, briefly, but otherwise our lives took separate paths. We rarely agreed on anything except our dad and we often argued about nearly everything else: I thought you were inflexible and you thought I was an arrogant “knowitall” (a view shared by others, I might add).
But we shared the one thing that mattered most: we were brothers. Not half, quarter, two-thirds or any fraction thereof, we were simply and always brothers. You never let me forget that because you were always the oldest one, and you were right — but only this one time. . .
I never got to say thanks for that, for being my big brother. So thank you, Big Brother. You’ll always be with me and I will always love you.