Brion was always a bit of a perplexing character to me – a hard nut to crack, and he was my Dad! He often weighed simplicity and practicality over all else but he himself was a pretty complex human being - not full of contradictions, but full of surprises.
Brion was different in manner than anyone I have ever met - quiet, poignant, & always gentle in his approach. He cared more to listen and ask questions than he did talking. …Questions like “why would you want to do that?” And then he was actually interested in the answer. He would listen; he would sincerely listen. He would bow his eyes or look at you directly. He’d nod, “Hm”, in a quiet acknowledgment, but never interrupted.
I am well aware of Brion’s talents and career as an extremely technically savvy individual, tactful manager & valuable contributor to the outside world. To me, he was the utmost of technically savvy and cool as he introduced me & my sister to our very first VHS player in the late 80’s! We happily watched our first ever movies in his condo as kids. Groundbreaking technology & fun! The first movie I ever saw on VHS was the one he introduced me to at that condo, “The Princess Bride”.
“As you wish.”
Brion was also a talented popcorn maker. The “simplest’ way to make popcorn, in my opinion, would be microwaving in a store bought paper bag. But that was not for Brion – he was “old school” in many ways & he had popcorn maker in his kitchen. This was probably the one food he cared to perfect, everything else being “too complicated”. He would pop from the kernel, into a large, white ceramic bowl, inscribed in blue: “Brion’s Popcorn”…then slather it with melted butter and salt. He made movie nights for our family a bit of a ritual.
He was a Dad of daughters, husband of wife & brother of his sister. He was surrounded by women – so this ultimately complicated things for Brion;) Brion often walked into town and paid $25 at the local barber shop for his haircut & was home an hour later. He was a bit perplexed that my mother & I could spend hours, and substantially more money for our hair care; although he also knew well enough to mind his own business. On more than a few occasions he would point to Barbie – “if we put her hair in a pony tail & cut it – that’s a haircut!” He’d crack himself up with that but also was completely serious. Somehow, thankfully, I evaded the “Barbie haircut”.
Brion had a contagious laugh. When he cracked up about something, he really lit up & often it was just himself cracking up. This always made me laugh, even if I didn’t know what we were laughing about yet. I can picture him, just like this, at our dinner table: telling us something & stumbling upon something too funny to contain. He’d have the widest grin, squinting, tearing eyes; he’d vibrantly laugh & try to recover himself enough to fill everyone else in on the joke. This was just him, vibrant & goofy. I am thankful to hold him this way in my memory.
Brion gravitated toward simplicity.
McDonald’s, for example, was “too complicated”. Meaning too many options.
Many tasks were considered & labeled, by him, a “big project”…as in, “you want to hang a flower basket? That’s a ‘big project’”… but he oversaw years of the complete overhaul restoration of his 1957 MG, a stunningly beautiful car now, thanks to his meticulous care. He built his own road bike, he popped his own kernels; when he did something he did it with all his attentions & care.
I don’t recall Brion & I spending a lot of time together doing “activities” or sharing hobbies. He just wasn’t the type to push a hobby or activity. He rode his bike, I rode mine, etc. He had his cars and toys & and hobbies and he let me find my own interests. I think he understood & valued self driven curiosity, as well as his own passions best in solitude. But he always gave the time to anyone interested in what he was doing. He modeled passion with his love of his own hobbies – “toys” – cars, bikes, boats, model-making and cleaning such toys. When he did have a hobby, it was usually one at a time, allowing him to give it his full attention. As a father, he nurtured my own exploration into my own endeavors by standing back, supporting, when & where he could, listening, offering guidance & by continuing to do his own thing; allowing me the space to do mine.
Cleaning such “toys” - Brion often spent equal, if not more time, caring for his things than he did using them. This was a point of value for him – caring for things. Like most other things Brion did, he did his caring & cleaning thoroughly, often with a toothbrush. He had a collection of toothbrushes just for cleaning; a box of toothbrushes in his garage just for his cars. This will be a true “tall tale” we will continue to tell our kids of their Grandpa BB.
He cared for things thoroughly; he cared for me, and our family, thoroughly.
Cars – Brion liked to drive fast cars, slowly. When I accompanied him in the car it was usually mostly in silence. He liked to drive routes that relied on turning right, preferably only turning right, them being “less complicated”. Brion had a way of slowing things down, being ok with just being. This was quite special.
I was a bit rebellious as a kid, and in hindsight, I didn’t make things easy for the Dad in search of the kid-rearing manual. (He often asked my mother “where’s the manual for this?”) Once, in adolescence, I snuck out of our house in the middle of the night to hang out with some friends of mine down the road. I was a bit “dumb” too because I fell asleep out & so was caught in the morning by my mother, who sternly picked me up to bring me home. I met Brion back at our home in my parents’ bedroom for a “talk”. I expected to be in serious trouble. I expected to be yelled at, grounded, but he didn’t even seem angry - he spoke softly. Brion sat me down and quietly walked me through how scared he had been for my whereabouts, my safety. This might seem straightforward, but as a teenager, this honestly hadn’t occurred to me. He turned my vantage point upside-down, he talked so caringly that I actually listened and began to care myself – no small feat for connecting with a rebellious teenager. He had such a gentle way of connecting, I still wanted to sneak out for more fun with friends but I never did that again.
Brion never had biological children. He thought the world was too cruel & complicated to create kids for. “Why would you want to do that?” He had a very traumatic childhood before being adopted & I think that played a huge part in his world view & parenting perspective. Nonetheless, he became a dad & grandfather – and he was amazing at it, despite his best efforts to find the “manual” for that. I always felt a bit conflicted that he ended up with me being his kid despite his reluctance to have children “of his own”, but mostly I just felt lucky that we ended up together.
I will always be grateful, that the universe put us together, that he became my Dad. Like most things that Brion took on, he wasn’t’ just a little good at being a Dad, he was exceedingly good at it.
To say Brion will be missed is simply an understatement - there is a deep, deep hurt from his loss, a wrenching in the core of my being as I feel the pain of the his void.
Brion, gratefully, remains in the memories, the lessons; most importantly, the Love. The love he gave is so deeply settled in there. Quiet, deep & steady, like him. Sometimes I smile & laugh; sometimes I cry & the tears stream. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The pain means there was something there; something so valuable and so hard to lose that it was indeed worth losing, The Love that remains is his gift & I am so grateful for it. This is our treasure, always.
Brion, Mr. B, Thank You for your Love.
I will Love You, Forever and Always.
Your Daughter, Jackie