Remembering Don

Can one be "good at" grief? I don't think I am right now. I really have not allowed myself to fully believe, fully grasp, that my brother Don died on Friday, July 1. I am blindsided by the small things that remind me of him, I cry unexpectedly, but it isn't really real. It just isn't. I guess that's the denial phase.

Some of the things that have caught me off guard with a stab:

A motorcycle on a wine label, because he rode motorcycles like a centaur, his body one with the bike, and took me on thrillingly fast rides as a little kid. He made a dramatic addition to a sparkly electric blue helmet with a streaming, Viking-like plume of white horsehair taken from the tail of my horse Shawn, an old pinto who had retired from barrel racing.

Looking for photos to use in his memorial service I found one of my younger sister Julie and I on our red tricycles, brains safely encased in a couple of our brother's big helmets. After working as a graphic artist for years he became a motorcycle safety coach; the public speaking didn't come naturally but he really knew how to ride. Whenever I see someone on a motorcycle I think of my brother.

A rack full of Hawaiian shirts for sale at a West Seattle street fair, because he developed a taste for such shirts and was wearing one pretty much every time I saw him for I don't know how many years.

He wasn't a fancy dress-up guy. His attire at his wedding to sweet Lisa consisted of blue jeans, a T-shirt with the ruffles of a tuxedo shirt printed on it, and a tailcoat. He looked fantastic. I loved having a brother so good-looking that in college when he stopped by my sorority house to pick me up for an outing to hear his friend Scooter's band play at the North Idaho Cowboy Bar in Troy, someone in our dining room dropped her pencil in disbelief that this hotness was my date.

Driving home from a meeting in Olympia sobbing as I sang a song he wrote that our whole family loved, "Pickaway." I write it like that because the lyrics could be read as "pick a way" or "pick away". I grew up with his homegrown music, he and his friends playing guitar and singing around a campfire or in chairs drawn in a circle.

He didn't have the kind of voice that would have led to commercial success but man, could he play the guitar. I always felt lucky to have grown up with music that wasn't just the same Top 40 everyone knew all the words to. Long ago I wore out the cassette tape with a recording of the song. Fortunately, Scooter has a digital recording and all of us will get a copy that won't wear out.

The fact that I live in Seattle now is a way of remembering Don. For many years while I lived in Coeur d'Alene and then Spokane, I'd bring my two daughters to western Washington for a trip once a year. It always involved stopping in Seattle to visit Don and Lisa, staying at their condo in downtown, visiting Pike Place Market, and seeing them before going to Anacortes to catch the ferry and visit my younger sister in Friday Harbor. When Eric and I moved to Seattle in 2012 we lived in that same condo for a while before finding a rental, then buying the house we're in now that sits only 3 miles or so from Don's place in Burien.

His catch phrases -- I won't remember all of them in trying to make a list but I know when I hear certain things they will grab me. He was the first person I heard use the construction "X-y X-erton," as in saying someone was a real Judgey Judgerton, and when I use that formula I think of him.

When we'd say goodbye and hug he often said, "Love you like a sister."

When bedtime rolled around Dad used to say, "Time to retire to the arms of Morpheus." Don's version: Que sueña con los angeles (dream with the angels).

Don was the most happy-go-lucky of all six of us, the children of Bill and Gladys Greene. He had a gift for friendship; he made friends easily and kept them forever, always adding to the breadth and depth of his circles. On September 2 our family and friends will gather to remember him, tell stories, cry and laugh. What he would want us to say: "C'est bon."