Forever my little buddy

When I first met Stevie, I don’t remember whether I was more smitten with him or the yellow and black bumble bee puzzle that came with him.

Stevie was a little dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed baby lying on my parents’ bed. The bumble bee puzzle was one of the usual gifts presented to the existing kids when a new child was inducted into the ever-growing fold.

Both Stevie and the bumble bee must have struck a chord with me because I vividly remember both.

My brother, Terry, and I soon tired of the puzzle and were left with staring at our new sibling.

“He’s your new little buddy,” our dad would say as we marveled at the tiny being. I don’t recall Terry’s arrival, because he entered the family shortly after I did — but when Stevie came into the picture, I was an aware three-year-old who was captivated.

Early on, Stevie was the main object of my affection. I loved to put bows on his head (which would actually stay in, due to his incredible amount of black hair) and place my dolls next to him. I didn’t care if he was a boy — as I was constantly reminded by my macho father. He was my play-thing, and yes, Dad, my little buddy.

When he grew too large for the crib, it was time for him to be placed elsewhere. Where to put Stevie? He joined me in the bottom bunk in “the big kids’ room.” There, we read stories (I’m not sure if I read the actual words or just made them up) and the toddler would snuggle up against me in the dark of the night.

And every evening, just before we’d drift off to sleep, I’d hear his little voice ask, “Who am I?”

And I’d answer, “You’re my little buddy.”

He loved it. So did I.

As we grew older, Stevie began to sport a beautiful head of curly locks. My mother couldn’t bear the thought of cutting it. “It’s just so beautiful,” she’d lament, which made my father beg for a trim even more. She complied – which resulted with a dark pile on the floor covered by her tears.

Our mom made all of our clothes. I remember a specific bolt of denim-blue fabric that had multi-colored polka dots. She made me a dress and was thrilled to see she had fabric left over. She decided to make Stevie a pair of short overalls from the pieces. Oh, divorce papers were nearly filed over that one — my father was furious that my little male counterpart and I were wearing matching outfits.

That must be why a string of four girls were quickly created — to keep Stevie from being my little sister.

He was always such a good sport. When I played “doctor,” he was my patient who’d get fake shots from corn cob holders. When I played “school,” he was the student I commanded to learn the ABCs. When I played “newspaper,” he was my carrier, willing to hold my copies while riding on the back of my bike to the grandparents’ mailbox.

My little buddy and I were inseparable. We played in the water at Ahlers’ Creek, climbed trees at the farm and he pretended to eat my mud pies in my make-believe outdoor kitchen.

Stevie had a hard time talking when he was young. He created this language, of sorts, which was all his own. The rest of the world couldn’t understand what he was saying — but luckily, I was his interpreter as I could decipher every last word.

Stevie was a wonder when it came to sleeping. My parents never lost a night of slumber on that one — even as a baby, he’d sleep all night. When he was a toddler, my mother would intentionally wake him up right before noon, so his entire life didn’t consist of being unconscious. He loved to take afternoon naps and never complained when it was time to go to bed at night.

And Stevie loved the bottle. Mom tried for years to wean him from it, but he seemed to be addicted. They knew they had a problem when he got old enough to sneak into the kitchen and fill one with milk, all by himself.

Stevie always had a gaggle of friends around him. I suppose it was because he was so incredibly funny . . . and kind hearted. The kid could tell a joke like no one else and was always a champion for the underdog.

Life went on and we grew up. My little buddy transformed into a big, strong kid who was destined for the football field. Unfortunately, multiple injuries and a broken leg (suffered during a game) cut short that endeavor. He spent the majority of his senior year having surgeries and therapy — but his humor never wavered.

When he was 17, I became his legal guardian, which seemed odd to both of us. He was twice my size and pretty much already a man. Truth be told, I needed my little buddy then more than he ever needed me.

Little Stevie grew up, got married, became a father. He’s a big, burly guy who still has the thickest hair ever known to mankind — now there are flickers of gray. He says his body hurts all the time, which is no surprise seeing how hard he physically works along with his leg issues of long ago. He’s still one of the funniest people I know and his heart is still tender. His favorite past-time is napping — although he rarely has time to do so. And he still likes the bottle once in awhile — but today, it’s a glass vessel containing an adult beverage.

His birthday was a couple of days ago, and I want to take this moment to say I love my brother, Stevie. And to say that no matter how gray we get . . . he will always be my little buddy.




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